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A zebra may not be in the same life-threatening league as a zombie, or an alien, or a polar bear, or a crocodile for that matter, but you really do not want to mess with these ungulate proto-horses. They may look like big donkeys wearing jimjams, but they’re tough and they’re real brawlers. So the best way to avoid getting killed by one is to steer well clear. You can’t calm them down by tapping their noses, so the bamboo pole that good urban warriors carry at all times is going to cut no ice at all. Adopt an avoidance strategy.

The males in particular are filthy fighters, like all wild horses are, and fiercely protective of the females in their kinship group. If you see a herd of zebras, it’s not strictly a herd, it’s a collective of kinship groups of females, each with a single male heading things up. In these pseudoherds, they all seem to rub along OK unless another male starts to encroach on the females of another group, at which point it’s like being in a pub when some trok* shouts, ‘Oi! Are you looking at my bird? Outside, now, you wassock!’ I expect that you’ve heard this warcry and buried your face in your drink, hoping not to attract the attention of the psycho doing the yelling.

Zebras are psychos when crossed. They’ll rear up and try to kick each other’s heads in, bite ferociously, lash out with rear hooves. It’s a proper pagga, no holds barred, and quite a sight to behold. The loser may well die of his injuries. Seems a bit of an extreme punishment for fancying a shag, but it’s the law of the wild, I suppose.

There’s a rather charming aspect to this. If a male wants to cop off with the daughter of another male, dad will give him a bit of a kicking to test his mettle. If the stripy suitor acquits himself with honour, then dad sort of claps him on the shoulder, and says, ‘Well done, son. She’s all yours.’ It’s a bit like having to fight your prospective father in law before you can waltz down the aisle with his little girl.

The females are no mean shakes in a scrap either. They’ll take on a hyena to protect their foal. Hyenas aren’t noted for adhering to the Queensbury Rules, so you have to hand it to the females who take them on. But there is a limit. No female will fight to the death for her foal. Simple reason for this. If the mother survives, she gets another go at foaling next year. If she dies, so does the foal, because there’s no adoption agency for zebras, and the other females won’t look after an orphan. Sad but true.

As I say, best to avoid a rough house with a zebra. Here’s something you may not know. If a zebra kicks you, you’re in trouble. Even if the kick doesn’t break a limb or stove your head in, it’s even worse news than you think. Zebra hooves are quite brittle, and when a kick connects small pieces of the hoof will be left in the wound. These pieces break up into very fine needles, and these will cause long term irritation, with frequent infection and abscess formation. A zebra kick takes a long time to heal.

Unlikely as it may seem, the markings on a zebra are extremely good camouflage. Get a zebra in scrub or in amongst trees and it’s a bugger to spot. I know, I’ve seen/not seen them in the wild. Real ‘There it is, now it’s gone,’ stuff. Weird. The stripes also help keep the zebra cool; up to 70% of the energy in sunlight is reflected by the coat. Oh, and all zebras have unique markings. When a dam foals, she’ll spend quite a while shielding the offspring from seeing other zebras so the foal imprints on her markings.

Lastly, the answer to an age old question. Zebras are black with white stripes, not the other way round.

Yesterday, unfetteredbs asked me how I know things like this. I just do. I’m a geek. I have also seen zebras in the wild, and listened to the game warden. I’ve been very fortunate.

*PS If you don’t know what a trok is, you haven’t been paying attention, have you?

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