What do Zebras eat?

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Out of all the animals on earth, the zebra is probably the easiest to identify.  We all know and love these horse-like animals for their distinctive black and white striped coats.  But what you probably didn’t know was that the stripes and patterns on zebra’s hides are all unique.  


There are three main species of zebra; the plains zebra, the mountain zebra, and the grevy’s zebra. 

These three different zebra species may look a little bit different but they are all herbivores and enjoy eating the same food types.  


What do Zebras eat?

Like all herbivores, zebras only eat plant matter. They also consume surprisingly much food for their size on a daily basis, especially compared to other herbivores with a similar diet.  Here is a quick look at the main foods that zebras most enjoy eating.


Short green grass

90% of a zebra’s diet consists of grass.  They spend 60 – 80% of their day grazing.  They prefer short green grass because their front teeth are specially designed to cut off the blades of grass while the back teeth are designed to grind grass. 


Zebras will consume any grass varieties with these characteristics they can find.  If food is a bit scarce, they will also munch on taller grass varieties.  In dry winter seasons, zebras are also able and happy to consume yellow wintered grass.


Leaves and shrubs

When grass is scarce, zebras will also munch on leaves.  They can consume just about any type of leaves and shrubs that are non-poisonous and they might even choose to give a few leaves a taste even if there is lots of grass to eat.  But this is scarcely done since they do prefer grass.



In harsh conditions, zebras will also eat or chew on twigs.  They usually prefer softer or green twigs but in extremely hard times, these animals will also try to chew browned and harder twigs so they can stay alive.



Leafy green herbs might seem like an obvious food source to zebras and these herbivores will consume herbs, but only in times of hardship.  They can consume just about any type of herbs and often enjoy consuming the twigs of herbs in addition to the leaves.  


Wildlife pellets

Zebras are also happy to consume wildlife pellets since these usually contain lots of grass. 


These pellets are often offered to zebras because these foods contain lots of vitamins and minerals.  The added vitamins and minerals can help boost zebra’s health in tough times.



Zebras can survive for up to 5 days without water and they can travel up to 700 miles to find food and water.  But these animals do require lots of water to stay healthy.  If water is scarce, zebras will consume up to a gallon of water in a single drink.  If they live close to water, they might not consume quite as much water with every drink but they will drink quite often.  


Zebra diet variations

In zoos, zebras are often offered treats such as carrots and apples.  These foods are not usually found in the wild and as such are a diet variation.  Carrots or apples won’t affect zebras’ health negatively as long as these foods are not offered too often.  


Tame zebras can have all sorts of diet variations.  Like horses, your zebra may choose to bother you for human foods such as bread and they can nibble on foods like oats.  These foods are not the best to offer your zebra because they contain lots of ingredients that are not too great for a zebra’s digestive system.  


Foods that are rich in pasture or cereal can cause disturbances in their digestive bacteria or result in metabolic problems such as insulin resistance.  


How to feed Zebras

Zebras can be fully domesticated and tamed.  They will adopt the same basic nature as any horse or donkey.  


But zebras can be quite dangerous.  In the wild, they are known to kick each other to death and they can bite humans quite viciously if you come too close to them.  On some occasions, zebras have even killed lions.  


If you are feeding a domesticated zebra, you should practice the same caution as you would any horse.  And in the wild, you should never try to get too close to a zebra.


 When feeding zebras it is best to offer foods in a dedicated feeding area.  It is also best not to get too close to feeding zebras while observing them.


How much do Zebras eat?

These animals have a very healthy appetite.  60-80% of their day is spent grazing on foods.  Their digestive systems are not very efficient but this also helps them survive on low-quality foods.  Zebras will consume as much food as they possibly can in a single day.  


What do baby zebras eat?

Baby zebras are called a colt.  Zebras are mammals and rely on their mother’s milk for survival.  These colts will start to graze when they are 1 week old and they can consume the same basic foods as adult zebras but in smaller quantities. 


They will gradually increase their grass consumption as they grow.  These beautiful animals will continue to lactate for up to 16 months and will stay very close to their mother for the first year of their lives.  


What do wild zebras eat?

In the wild, zebras will consume the foods that are available to them.  They are migrating animals and tend to travel to areas with more foods during wintertime.  Zebras consume 90% natural African grasses they find in the region and 10% other foods like leaves and twigs.  


What is a Zebras prey?

Zebras do have many enemies.  They are preyed upon by lions, cheetahs, African wild dogs, and spotted hyenas as well as crocodiles.  Young colts can also fall victim to other smaller predators like caracals or jackals.  


Do zebras eat elephant grass?

Zebras will eat any type of grass, especially in harsh times.  They prefer shorter grass varieties but in extremely tough times they will munch on taller grass varieties such as elephant grass.  


Zebras are remarkable creatures.  They are fairly easy to care for. All they need is quality grass and lots of water and your zebra will be healthy and happy.   

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