The zebra is an African equine that is known the world over for its memorable black- and white-striped pattern. These hoofed creatures reside in savanna, plains and grassland areas all over Africa. These days, three species of zebras remain, all of whom are serious herbivorous grass eaters.
The common zebra (Equus burchelli), which is also frequently referred to as the "plains zebra," is a grazing creature on a perpetual quest for pastures full of green grass. Short, green grass is their grass type of choice. When the weather is especially arid, these zebras can manage just fine eating dry and rough grasses, as long as they are relatively close to water sources. Red oat grass (Themeda triandra) is a particular preference for common zebras. This greenish-blue tufted grass often can exceed 3 feet in growth. Common zebras also frequently eat grasses such as Cenchrus ciliaris, Eragrustis superba and Cynodon dactylon.
Grevy's zebra (Equus grevyi) consumes a lot of very coarse grasses that other kinds of zebras and equines are not able to digest properly, due to the severe toughness. The bulk of the Grevy's zebra diet consists of these fibrous, tougher-textured grasses, along with forbs. A couple examples of very coarse grasss that Grevy's zebras eat are Pennisetum schimperi and Eleusine jaegeri. These zebras are not capable of digesting grasses that have a lot of protein content, such as alfalfa grass. During arid times of year when grass is scarce, however, these zebras also consume a lot of foliage and bark.
The mountain zebra (Equus zebra), just like the other two species, is herbivorous. Tufted grass is the main staple of the mountain zebra diet. These relatively social creatures are particularly fond of Themeda triandra grass, but also frequently dine on Heteropogon contortus, Cymbopogon plurinodis, Enneapogon scoparius and Setaria neglecta grasses. Mountain zebras consist of two subspecies, both of whom share these grass feeding patterns. These subspecies are Hartmann's mountain zebras and cape mountain zebras.
Other Forms of Sustenance
Although grass certainly makes up the bulk of a zebra's menu, they do occasionally eat other things. Other types of zebra foods include fruit, buds, roots, herbs, shoots and shrubs.
- African Wildlife Foundation: Zebra
- University of Michigan Animal Diversity Web: Equus zebra
- University of Michigan Animal Diversity Web: Equus greyvi
- University of Michigan Animal Diversity Web: Equus burchelli
- Woodland Park Zoo: Zebra
- Philadelphia Zoo: Plains (Common) Zebra
- National Geographic: Zebra
- San Diego Zoo: Grevy's Zebra Fact Sheet
- Karl Weatherly/Photodisc/Getty Images