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The 3 Types of Zebras (and 11 Species)

Zebras are wild equids found only in Africa, with the exception of zoos around the world. While it might seem from afar that there are only one species of zebra, there are three species found in the country. In addition, there are various subspecies of zebras native to Africa.

These species and subspecies have plenty of similarities, small differences, and can be found in various regions and habitats.

11 Types of Zebras

There are 3 species of zebras found in Africa, and two of those species have various subspecies. Despite how similar each type of zebra looks, they have varying appearances and can be found in different regions across the continent.

1. Plains Zebra

Plains Zebra roaming around
Plains Zebra roaming around | image by Pius Mahimbi via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

Scientific name: Equus quagga

The plains zebra is the most common of the three zebra species, and it is the most widespread across Africa. There are six subspecies of plains zebra, and they can be found from South Africa to Ethiopia and East Africa.

Just like every other type of zebra, these animals have a black and white striped pattern.

2. Burchell’s Zebra

Burchell’s Zebras in grassland
Burchell’s Zebras in grassland | image by flowcomm via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific name: Equus quagga burchellii

The Burchell’s zebra is a subspecies of plains zebra and is known for the great distance they will migrate. These zebras have been known to travel about 160 miles one way, and migrate a longer distance than any other type of zebra found in Africa.

They were named for the British explorer William John Burchell.

3. Grant’s Zebra

Grant’s Zebras eating grass
Grant’s Zebras eating grass | image by Andy Rogers via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

Scientific name: Equus quagga boehmi

The smallest of the plains zebra is the Grant’s zebra. This zebra subspecies has a broad striped pattern, with the back legs having horizontal stripes. The rump and hind flanks have diagonal stripes.

Even though the population of the Grant’s zebra has been diminished by the loss of grasslands, there are still more Grant’s zebras than other subspecies. Like other types of zebras, these animals mainly feed on grass and similar vegetation.

4. Maneless Zebra

Maneless Zebra standing on a small hill
Maneless Zebra standing on a small hill | image by Ronnie Macdonald via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific name: Equus quagga borensis

The subspecies of plains zebra that can be found in the northern regions of Africa is the maneless zebra. These zebras are found in Sudan, Kenya, and Uganda, but they can mainly be found in South Sudan’s Boma National Park.

This zebra subspecies is easily recognized by their lack of mane, which can be found on other types of zebras.

5. Crawshay’s Zebra

Crawshay’s Zebra staring at the camera
Crawshay’s Zebra staring at the camera | image by Avi Alpert via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

Scientific name: Equus quagga crawshayi

To differentiate the Crawshay’s zebra from other subspecies of plains zebras you just have to look at the lower incisors. The lower incisors of these zebras do not have an infundibulum, which other types of plains zebras do.

Crawshay’s zebra is also known for having thinner stripes than other zebras. They thrive in Tanzania, Mozambique, Malawi, and Zambia.

6. Chapman’s Zebra

Chapman’s Zebra walking in the field
Chapman’s Zebra walking in the field | image by Richard Allen via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific name: Equus quagga chapmani

Chapman’s zebra closely resembles another subspecies of plains zebra, Burchell’s zebra. They are native to Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Angola, and South Africa. Chapman’s zebra can be found in herds of various sizes, and some may even be seen with brown stripes.

The foals of these zebras are born with brown stripes, and sometimes the adults will keep this brown coloring.

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7. Selous’ Zebra

Selous’ Zebra in the zoo
Selous’ Zebra in the zoo | image by Jiří Sedláček – Frettie via Wikimedia Commons | CC BY-SA 3.0

Scientific name: Equus quagga selousi

The sixth subspecies of plains zebra is the Selous’ zebra. A majority of the population is found in Mozambique and other areas of southeast Africa. These animals have the typically black and white stripe patterning of other zebras.

However, the pattern found on their face and neck is different from the rest of their body.

8. Mountain Zebra

Mountain Zebra grazing
Mountain Zebra grazing | image by Bernard DUPONT via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

Scientific name: Equus zebra

The other species of zebra found in Africa is the mountain zebra. There are two subspecies, including the cape mountain zebra and Hartmann’s mountain zebra. They thrive in rocky, dry, and mountainous areas across the country.

Mountain zebras can live over three thousand feet above sea level.

9. Hartmann’s Mountain Zebra

Hartmann’s Mountain Zebras approaching
Hartmann’s Mountain Zebras approaching | image by big-ashb via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific name: Equus zebra hartmannae

The mountain zebra subspecies found in southwestern Angola and western Namibia is Hartmann’s mountain zebra. These zebras can live on steep mountains, and thrive in arid habitats.

As of 2005, this zebra was not recognized as a mountain zebra subspecies after a genetic test found little difference between them and the mountain zebra. This animal is found in herds with seven to twelve zebras.

10. Cape Mountain Zebra

Cape Mountain Zebra playing
Cape Mountain Zebra playing | image by Bernard DUPONT via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

Scientific name: Equus zebra zebra

The cape mountain zebra is considered a subspecies of mountain zebra and can be found from Africa’s Western to Eastern Cape. This subspecies is known to be stockier and smaller than other types of zebras, and their population is considered vulnerable.

The cape mountain zebra is mostly active during the day or at dusk, and they have a picky diet. These animals mainly feed on grass and leafy plants.

11. Grevy’s Zebra

Grevy’s Zebra scratching
Grevy’s Zebra scratching | image by Tony Hisgett via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific name: Equus grevyi

Also known as the imperial zebra, the Grevy’s zebra is the largest zebra species found in Africa. This is the third species of zebra, next to the mountain zebra and plains zebra. They are also the largest wild equid found today.

The Grevy’s zebra population is more threatened than any other type of zebra. They can also be recognized by narrow stripes and large ears.

These zebras are endangered, and they have a wide-ranging diet that includes grass, shrubbery, and legumes. These zebras can also go five days without any water.

Conclusion

While there are only three types of zebras found in Africa, there are various subspecies. These zebras have small differences, in addition to plenty of similarities, and are native to different regions of Africa.