If you’ve ever wondered whether zebras and horses are related, you’re not alone. Zebras and horses are two of the most interesting and appealing animals for humans, even for little children. This is because they are both beautiful animals with striking physical features and are very attractive to the human eye.
Despite all of these common factors and the fact that they share a similarly built body, zebras and horses are far from being similar animals overall.
Not only are they different in terms of where they live, they also have vastly different mannerisms due to the way they have evolved over time.
In the next few paragraphs, we will help you understand the differences and similarities between these two animals by giving you a detailed breakdown of all the aspects of their being, including but not limited to their appearance and personality.
Background Zebras vs Horses
Zebras and horses are two of the only three living remnants of the same family, known as the genus Equus. They are also known as equines, and the family they belong to are recognized as Equidae by scientists who are experts in the field.
Fun Fact: The third surviving member of their family is the donkey, more commonly known as the Ass by scientists in academic terms.
Researchers have carried out multiple tests and the most recent ones suggest that the common ancestors to both horses and zebras existed somewhere around 4 million years ago. This is much earlier than was previously thought by scientists, and it suggests that horses are actually very slow in their evolution process.
Being from the same family also means that zebras and horses are actually quite similar in terms of their genetic makeup and the way their body is built.
Moreover, zebras and horses have also been known to mate and give birth to crossbred children, popularly referred to as zebroids. These offspring are also known as many other names because their names and traits can vary depending on their parentage.
When a male zebra and a female horse mate, the offspring is known as a zorse. When the zebra is a female and the horse is a male, the offspring is referred to as a hebra. These crossbreeds are fairly common and are used by researchers to conduct studies as well.
Differences between Zebras and Horses
Although zebras and horses share the base ancestors and have a similar genetic makeup, there are many aspects and traits that differentiate the two animals from one another. And we have listed all of these differences down below for your convenience.
Hair Color and Texture
The first and most obvious difference between zebras and horses is the color of the fur that covers their bodies.
Zebras are easily recognized by their black and white striped skin, with the stripes running vertically down their body. These stripes are visually appealing but more importantly, they help camouflage the animal from anyone looking to harm it.
Horses have evolved to have many different colors, with white and chocolate brown being the most desirable colors of all.
Zebras have relatively small and pointy hair that stand up straight and run from the top of their head to the bottom of their neck.
On the other hand, horses are known for their thick and magnificent manes that start from the top of their heads and fall to either side and they go down.
The two animals are very different in terms of their color and hair, and horses are undoubtedly the more beautiful of the two.
Size and Body Structure
Although horses and zebras look similar at first sight in terms of their size and builds, that is not exactly the case.
Horses are, on average, a bit bigger in size when compared with zebras. The normal range of height for a zebra ranges anywhere from 120 centimeters to 150 centimeters.
In contrast, the average height for horses is more or less around 180 centimeters.
In terms of the animals’ build, zebras actually look like donkeys more than they look likes horses. This is because they are significantly smaller than horses.
Zebras also have longer ears than do horses. This is yet another trait where zebras resemble donkeys and are different from horses.
Zebras also weigh less than horses do. A male zebra can weigh anywhere between 700 and 900 pounds when it is fully grown. On the other hand, fully grown female zebra’s weight between 400 and 570 pounds on average. Newborn zebras weigh around 65 pounds.
In comparison, a horse’s weight can range anywhere from 900 pounds to 2000 pounds when it is fully grown. Female horses generally weight slightly less than their male counterparts, but their weight depends on their breed as well. A castrated male will weigh more or less the same as a female horse. Baby horses weigh around 100 pounds at the time of their birth.
The difference between zebras and horses in terms of their weight is evident. Horses are larger and heavier than zebras, whether you are referring to a male of a female.
A baby horse will take between 4 or 5 years to reach its full height and become a fully grown horse. Some breeds of horses will even take as long as 8 years to grow to their full height.
Zebras grow a lot faster in comparison to horses. A baby zebra will take only 2 years to grow to its maximum height, much sooner than any breed of horse.
After growing to their full height, zebras and horses will both continue to grow in terms of muscle mass and overall size. In this time frame, they both gain a lot of strength.
Zebras and horses are vastly different in terms of how fast they can run.
Zebras are used to living in close vicinity to a lot of their natural predators, which makes it necessary to be able to run fast.
Horses seldom faced this problem as they evolved, but they have been bred and raised by humans for many years specifically to run faster. Not only have they been used as a race animal for hundreds of years, but they were also the most preferred source of transport for mankind until a few decades ago. This means that horses have also evolved to run fast.
In terms of pure numbers, horses run significantly faster than zebras. The average zebra can hit a top speed of around 65 kilometers per hour. In comparison to that, horses can run at speeds of almost 90 kilometers per hour.
The wide difference between these two animals is evident when it comes to how fast they can run.
With how similar the facial structure of zebras and horses is, some would expect that they communicate in somewhat similar ways. However, that could not be farther from the truth in real life. They actually speak in very different ways.
Communication for these animals is two-fold; they communicate through the sounds they make but also their body language as a whole.
It is important to note that zebras are capable of producing a much more diverse set of sounds compared to their relative species.
While horses can only neigh to communicate with other horses and humans, zebras can produce multiple sounds from their mouths. They sound more like donkeys when they talk, making a hee-haw sound that is very different to the way horses talk. They can also neigh the way horses do.
Most surprising is the fact that zebras are also capable of barking the way small dogs do. It’s actually said that a zebra’s barking can confuse you into thinking that you are listening to a small puppy.
Personality and Temperament Between Horse and Zebras
We humans have a tendency to make judgements about others on the basis of their physical appearance, and this rule of thumb extends to animals as well.
People have been known to get too comfortable around zebras simply because they are cute animals. However, you are advised not to do so because zebras are much more aggressive animals as compared to horses.
As mentioned before, zebras have always lived in close proximity to most of their natural predators. The most obvious example of this is the lion. Living in such dangerous circumstances all year round has meant that zebras have naturally evolved into more hostile animals than horses.
A zebra is dangerous if you get too close to them, and will attack any human or animal that gets close enough to make it feel threatened.
Zebras also have very strong hind legs and are known to use them to kill other zebras in their groups for dominance within their group.
A kick from a zebra is actually strong enough to injure a lion to the point that the lion is left unable to fight. They can use these hind legs to kill humans as well, which is a very good reason as to why you should never try to pet or ride a zebra.
Contrary to the way zebras have evolved, horses have been domesticated by humans over several centuries. This has made them much more trusting and much less hostile animals.
While it is true that a horse will also attack an aggressor or anyone making it feel threatened, they are less aggressive than zebras and much less likely to cause unnecessary harm.
This considerable difference in temperament is why horses are kept as pets on farms while zebras are known as potentially dangerous wild animals.
To sum up, horses and zebras are fundamentally different animals due to their lifestyles and mannerisms. Despite being from the same extended family, the different challenges they have faced as they evolved have meant that both these species grew different as time went on. At the end of the day, while they do share some similarities, horses and zebras are very different and unique animals.