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Why Do Zebras Have Stripes - Some Interesting Theories

Zebra

Zebra Close-Up

Zebra Close-Up

Zebras are Black with White Stripes

Have you ever wondered why zebras have stripes? First of all zebras are black with white stripes. This has been proven by zebra embryos. They are solid black and develop their stripes a little later in their development. Now as to the reason for their stripes, no one really knows for sure, but there are some interesting theories. Many different animals evolve with special features for different reasons but they all are in relation to the continuance of their species.


The cheetah can bend in with the shadows.

The cheetah can bend in with the shadows.

Camoflauge

The primary theory, of course, is camouflage against their predators. But if you stop and think about it, zebras don’t live in a black and white world. They live on grassy plains where the natural colors are browns and tans. Their predators on these plains are camouflaged in same type colors of their surroundings. Look at the cheetah, for instance, they are a brownish orange color with black spots. This way they blend in with grass and the shadows. The lion is the same color as the tall grass it hides in. Then why, you ask yourself, does the zebra have black and white stripes.


Zebra Herd

Zebra Herd Sheltering Baby

Zebra Herd Sheltering Baby

Confuse their Predators

The foremost theory is that the stripes work as camouflage, but to "confuse" their predators. The main predator of the zebra is the lion. Lions are noted for being color-blind and cannot tell the zebras are black and white. Since zebras run close together in herds, what the lion sees is a mass of lines moving all around, making it harder for the lion to pick out one individual. Their stripes can also help them blend in with the grass and brush of the plains.


Mother and Baby Zebra

Zebra with Baby

Zebra with Baby

Identification

Another theory is for identification. Zebra’s stripes are as individual as fingerprints. No two zebras have the exact same stripes. Some zoologists believe that when a female zebra gives birth, she will try to prevent the foal from seeing other zebras for several days by standing between her foal and the rest of the herd as much as possible. Thus the foal “learns” the pattern of its mother’s stripes quickly and is able to find her just by sight.


Zebra on the Plains

Zebra in Grass

Zebra in Grass

Biting Flies

There has recently been a study done by some researches from Hungary and Sweden that believe they have another theory. They believe that the striped pattern of black and white helps keep away the biting flies. They have actually done an experiment where they place “sticky” model horses into a fly infested field to test their theory. Each “sticky” horse had a different color or pattern to it. After counting how many flies were attracted to each pattern, they found that they “sticky” horse with the zebra stripe pattern attracted less flies. This theory has to do with the way light is reflected off the black and white pattern.


Zebra in Grass

Two Zebra in Grass

Two Zebra in Grass

Cooling Effect

Of course the savannah is a very got place and keeping cool is very important. Another theory has to do with the way light is reflects from the pattern of stripes. The black and white stripes reflect the sun in different ways, the white reflects the sun and causes an upward movement of air. The black absorbs the sun, which causes a downward movement of air. This is said to create a circular air movement around the zebra, which is thought to help keep the zebra cool.


These are just a few, among many different explanations as to why zebras have stripes. No one really knows for certain. Mother nature works in mysterious ways and I’m sure she had a very good reason for zebras and their stripes.


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Comments

Sheila Brown (author) from Southern Oklahoma on May 05, 2013:

Hi Marla,

I would agree with you that all of these theories are a part of why the zebra has stripes. I'm glad you found my hub interesting. Thank you for taking time to read and comment, it is always appreciated. Have a great day! :)

Marla J Neogra from Parkersburg, West Virginia on May 05, 2013:

I found your hub very interesting, and my thoughts would be that there is not just one specific reason, but many to support the reasons that zebras developed stripes.

Sheila Brown (author) from Southern Oklahoma on May 05, 2013:

Hi Audrey! I would imagine that all of these theories and a part of the reason zebras have stripes. Like you said, each one sounds like a good reason. Only He knows for sure! Thank you so much for all your great support, it is always appreciated! Have a wonderful day! :)

Sheila Brown (author) from Southern Oklahoma on May 05, 2013:

Hi Peggy! I am sure that God knows the reason zebras have stripes, but we do like to try to figure these things out. I'm glad you enjoyed my hub. I wish I could say the pictures are mine...but not this time. :) Thank you for all your support, it is greatly appreciated! Have a wonderful day! :)

Audrey Hunt from Idyllwild Ca. on May 05, 2013:

I love this hub sgbrown! I'm wondering if all of these theories are possible. Each one sounds like a good reason to me. Anyhow, I liked this! Voted up, interesting, awesome, useful and sharing. Thanks so much.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on May 04, 2013:

Hi Sheila,

Interesting theories about why zebras have stripes. I guess the Creator of us all knows the reasons. In the meantime it is fun to theorize as to the reasons. Up, interesting, sharing and pinning. Great photos!

Sheila Brown (author) from Southern Oklahoma on June 22, 2012:

Hello WhydThatHappen. I am glad you enjoyed my article. Thank you for your kind comment and sharing. It is always appreciated. Have a wonderful day! :)

Sheila Brown (author) from Southern Oklahoma on June 22, 2012:

Hello dwachira. I would really love for you to write a hub on African myths about zebras! I think it would be fascinating! Thank you for your comment and share, it is always appreciated! Have a wonderful day!

WhydThatHappen on June 22, 2012:

After the first paragraph I was thinking that the predators could be colorblind, then lo and behold! Great article topic, exactly the kind of article people scour the Internet for, shared. Thanks to dwachira for bringing this article to my attention

Danson Wachira from Nairobi, Kenya on June 21, 2012:

Very interesting article, agree with you, Zebras have a lot of predators and it is just natural that they have many ways of keeping them away.

African myths however tell very interesting stories about Zebras, think i should write about one of them these days.

Voted up, Interesting and shared as well.

Sheila Brown (author) from Southern Oklahoma on March 07, 2012:

Hello Horatio. I did not know that. That's very interesting. Yes, nature is a very wonderful thing. Thank you for reading my hub and your comment and good information. Have a wonderful day! :)

Horatio Plot from Bedfordshire, England. on March 07, 2012:

Ha! Very interesting SG. Did you know that Zebras hang about with Wildebeests in the wild. The Zebra has great eyesight but a poor sense of smell, while the Wildebeest can't see jack all, but a great sense of smell. They've worked out that together they have a better chance of detecting predators. Nature is a wonderful thing.

Sheila Brown (author) from Southern Oklahoma on February 27, 2012:

Hello bilips. I'm glad you found my hub interesting. There is not telling what the zebra's world looked like when he first evolved is there? Thank you for your kind comment. Have a great day! :)

billips from Central Texas on February 27, 2012:

This is a very interesting hub - I always understood that coloration had to do with blending in - I also thought that most animals were color-blind which fits in with the lion theory - also the environment of the zebra when the stripes first developed may have been vastly different than it is today - great article providing lots of food for thought -

Sheila Brown (author) from Southern Oklahoma on February 24, 2012:

Hi SanneL. Thank you for your kind comments and sharing! I hope you have a wonderful weekend yourself! :)

Sheila Brown (author) from Southern Oklahoma on February 24, 2012:

Hello thelyricwriter! It's always good to hear from you. Thank you so much for all your votes, and comment. I hope you have a wonderful weekend as well!

SanneL from Sweden on February 24, 2012:

What a fun and interesting subject on a hub! I enjoyed reading all your different theories and possibilities why Zebras have their unique pattern. Your pictures are wonderful as well! Well done!

Thanks for SHARING! Enjoy your weekend!

Sheila Brown (author) from Southern Oklahoma on February 23, 2012:

Hello FullOfLoveSites. Thank you for visiting, I'm glad to found my article interesting. Welcome to HubPages! :)

FullOfLoveSites from United States on February 22, 2012:

Interesting hub...

Sheila Brown (author) from Southern Oklahoma on February 21, 2012:

Hello nighthag. Thank you for your kind words! I appreciate you stopping in and reading my hub. Have a great day!

K.A.E Grove from Australia on February 21, 2012:

I enjoyed this :) some of your facts I have read before others were new and fascinating

a great article!!

Sheila Brown (author) from Southern Oklahoma on February 21, 2012:

Hi biancaalice. Thank you for stopping by and commenting on my hub. I think there are "theories" on just about anything and everything! Thank you for your comment, it is always appreciated! Have a great day! :)

biancaalice from Southern California on February 21, 2012:

That was quite interesting. I never thought they actually had theories on why the have stripes. That's pretty cook.

Voted up & interesting.

Sheila Brown (author) from Southern Oklahoma on February 21, 2012:

Absolutely! LOL Thank you for stopping in and visiting my hub, it is always appreciated! Thank you for your kind words and you cute sense of humor Have a wonderful day! :)

Sheila Brown (author) from Southern Oklahoma on February 21, 2012:

Hello Loi-Renee. I'm glad you stopped in to view my hub. Thank you for your kinds words! The answer is.......they actually have black skin underneath their coats. Some are born with genetic differences to make it look like they have are white with black stripes while some look black with white stripes. Thanks for asking a good question! :)

Mrs L A Gibb on February 21, 2012:

Bravo! I am mesmerised at this fascinating theory of why zebras have stripes. Very well put together hub.

I have a theory too. Zebras, don't they help us to cross roads in safty. LOL.

Loi-Renee from Jamaica on February 21, 2012:

I did not know until now that each zebra had a unique pattern of stripes. You have a very well researched and interesting hub. Voted up and interesting.

The only question now is: Are they white with black stripes or black with white stripes? LOL.

Sheila Brown (author) from Southern Oklahoma on February 21, 2012:

Hello Debby. It was just a little information I found interesting. Thank you for your kind comment, I appreciate that very much! Blessing back to you! :)

Debby Bruck on February 21, 2012:

DB ~ Many fascinating theories and possibilities why zebras developed stripes to fit into their environment and habitat. Great photographs - your specialty! Blessings, Debby

Sheila Brown (author) from Southern Oklahoma on February 21, 2012:

Hi cebutouristspot! It's always nice to hear from you. I agree, I think that is at least the primary reason, there may be more than one. Thank you for visiting my hub and commenting, it is always appreciated! Have a wonderful day! :)

Sheila Brown (author) from Southern Oklahoma on February 21, 2012:

Hello Kimberly, yes there are some amazing theories for zebra stripes, I am sure there are probably more than one answer. Thank you for visiting my hub and for your comment, it is always appreciated! Have a wonderful day! :)

Sheila Brown (author) from Southern Oklahoma on February 21, 2012:

Hi Brett! I was going to write an article on the zebra itself and just thought this would be interesting. Thank you for comments and sharing, it's always appreciated! Have a wonderful day! :)

cebutouristspot from Cebu on February 21, 2012:

The strip of each is unique just like our fingerprint so I think you are right about identification.

Kimberly Quevedo from New Jersey on February 21, 2012:

Loved the hub idea for this article! It makes you wonder and there are definitely some interesting theories to the reason for a zebra pattern.

Brett C from Asia on February 21, 2012:

Wow, you have some interesting theories there. Defense is a good one, as they would be mighty confusing when all running together. However, if they use the stripes for identification, you'd think nature would come up with an easier way! lol

Thanks for SHARING.

Sheila Brown (author) from Southern Oklahoma on February 18, 2012:

Hello lobobrandon! :) Thank you for your kind words. I guess only God knows why Zebras have stripes, but we can wonder. I just think they are such beautiful animals. Thank you for your vote up, etc. Have a wonderful day! :)

Brandon Lobo on February 18, 2012:

I read about the biting flies online recently and was amazed. This hub is well put together and made a good read. Voted up and awesome.

Sheila Brown (author) from Southern Oklahoma on February 18, 2012:

That is a great theory and very true! Thank you for visiting my hub and commenting. Have a wonderful day! :)

Becky Katz from Hereford, AZ on February 18, 2012:

I have read of all these different theories. My theory is that they are all relevant. God has more than a passing interest in any of his creatures and I believe that he changes them as they need changes made.

Sheila Brown (author) from Southern Oklahoma on February 18, 2012:

Hello thelyricwriter. Thank you for your "all around" votes and your kind words. I hope you have a wonderful weekend yourself! :)

Richard Ricky Hale from West Virginia on February 18, 2012:

Voted up, useful, awesome, and interesting. Great article. I can really feel how their stripes could confuse a predator. I would have never thought about that. Good other reasons as well. Very interesting and a great article of knowledge. Hope you have a great weekend! Best wishes.