Last Updated on April 17, 2023
At first glance, it’s easy to think zebras and horses are similar. Even zebra vs horse size can be close, but there are many differences between them!
The horse and the zebra belong to the same genus and family of animals, which explains their comparable characteristics. Let’s explore these two beautiful creatures that draw admiration from people around the world.
Is a Zebra a Horse?
To start with, we need to get some facts cleared up about the difference between zebras, horses, and donkeys. Is a zebra a horse, or are they two completely different creatures?
To understand this, we first need to learn about how they are related. Horses, donkeys, and zebras all belong to a genus of animals called Equus. Many other animals that were once part of this genus are now extinct, the remaining surviving members of this family are known as Equines.
So, what does this mean? Well, horses, donkeys, and zebras all belong to the same group of animals, but they are each subspecies in their own right. This means that a zebra is not a horse, and neither is a donkey. Each subspecies has genetic differences that set it apart from the other subspecies in the same genus.
Now we’ve got that cleared up, let’s see how donkey vs zebra vs horse size compares!
Zebra vs Horse Size
- Zebra size – Let’s dive right in and look at the size of the horse and zebra. Zebras are smaller than horses unless you start to compare them with ponies. Zebras stand anywhere from 10 to 13 hands, depending on which one of the three species they are part of. The smallest zebra species is the Burchell’s, which averages around 10 hands tall. The theBurchells is a plains zebra with broad stripes on its body. It has smaller ears than its cousin, the mountain zebra.
- Horse size – A horse is an equine that stands over 14.2 hands, with the largest breeds reaching the dizzying height of 20 hands. Even the smallest horse is bigger than a zebra.
- Pony size – The name pony is given to horses that are smaller in size – normally 14.2 hands high or less. The smallest pony in the world was reported to be just 5 hands high – that’s just 20 inches tall! Most ponies are larger than this and, as you can see, the zebra is closer in size to a pony than a horse.
- Donkey size – When it comes to zebra vs donkey size, a donkey is more comparable to a zebra when it comes to looks and size than a horse. The average donkey stands 11 hands tall. They have larger ears than both the horse and the zebra.
Zebra vs Horse Weight
Now that we’ve seen the height difference between the zebra and the horse, it is easy to conclude that:
- Zebras weigh – They weigh less than horses. An adult male weighs between 700 to 990 pounds. Female zebras are smaller weighing between 400 to 570 pounds. The newborn zebra foal weighs only 65 pounds.
- Horse weight – The average horse weighs between 900 to 2000 pounds. Female horses will generally weigh less than stallions, but the specific breed affects this. A gelding (castrated male) can weigh the same as a mare of the same size. The average horse’s foal weighs around 100 pounds. Pony foals are born at a weight similar to a zebra.
- Donkey weight – The average weight of a donkey is 500 pounds. Taking weight into consideration, a donkey is the smallest of the three animals. A donkey foals weights between 19 to 30 pounds.
Zebra vs Horse Size – Growth Rate
Zebras reach their full height by two years old, quicker than a horse. A typical horse will not reach its adult height until age four or five. Some horses mature slowly, not reaching their full height until age eight.
Both zebras and horses continue to grow physically after reaching their full height for three to four years. During this period, they will develop muscle and put on weight.
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Zebra vs Horse – Similarities
- The zebra and horse belong to the Equus genus, of which the donkey is also a member. You may notice that a donkey actually looks more like a zebra than a horse. They have similar manes and tails, with much less hair than a horse has.
- They all have similar hooves made of keratin. The zebra and the horse are both herd animals with similar wild behaviors. For example, the entire herd will never lie down to sleep at once, as some must stay alert for predators.
- Additionally, the head of a horse and zebra are both long with eyes located on the sides. While the mouth contains forty to forty-two teeth that both animals use for grazing.
Difference between a zebra and a horse
- Both the zebra and horse can gallop at high speed, their main defense for escaping predators. As far as which one is faster, the horse wins out with the top speed of 55mph reached. Zebras can reach 40mph.
- Zebras and horses communicate with movements and sounds. However, a zebra is capable of more sounds than a horse. One that might catch you off guard is a barking sound that you could confuse for a small dog.
- They can neigh like a horse and hee-haw like a donkey.
Even though zebras are pretty darn adorable, their temperaments are much more aggressive than a horse. Despite their relatively small height, a zebra is quite dangerous, so don’t be fooled by serene scenes of them grazing on the plains.
A zebra has an extremely powerful kick that it will use to attack predators. They will even join together to use this kicking power. A zebra will also kick another zebra to death in a fight for dominance.
A zebra is much more likely than a horse to attack anyone or anything that gets close enough to make it feel threatened. Horses evolved in a less aggressive environment. The zebra is native to Africa, where it contends with many large, dangerous predators, making it more alert and aggressive than horses.
Are zebras mean?
It would be unfair to call zebras mean, but they do have very different personalities than domesticated horses! Our horses and ponies are the product of many centuries of domestication, and they have lost a lot of the instincts that helped their wild ancestors survive in the wild. Even feral horses descended from escaped domesticated horses, can be relatively easy to tame.
However, when it comes to wild zebras, they have to be fierce and strong to survive. Remember that zebras are constantly under the threat of attack from predators, and if they cannot flee they need to be able to fight off any attacks. The most dominant zebras in the herd will protect the rest at all costs, kicking at and biting predators to defend the younger and weaker members of the herd.
As zebras have had very little interaction with humans, a wild herd of zebras will not react favorably to any people who approach the herd. Their first instinct will be to run away as quickly as possible, but if they are trapped then they may bite and kick in an attempt to escape.
Domestication of Zebras
The aggressive nature of the zebra does not make it a good candidate for domestication. Not only can a zebra kick incapacitate a lion, but their bite is also ruthless. They do not tend to show any desire to interact with humans
While the occasional zebra has been domesticated to some degree, they do not make good companions for humans. They are too unpredictable and have very strong survival instincts.
Zebras kept in captivity retain these instincts, and tend to distrust humans even after many years. Historically some zebras have been trained to pull a carriage or accept a rider, but the training methods used to do this have been dismissed as being too cruel. It seems that the wild instincts of zebras are just too strong for humans to overcome with kindness alone!
Breeding a Horse to a Zebra
It is possible to breed a zebra and a horse together. The foal of this mating is called a zorse if the sire is a zebra and the dam is a mare. If you reverse the parents, the foal is called a hebra.
The resulting foals from this cross often have the color of the mother and feature zebra stripes. A zebra can also breed with a donkey, which produces a zonkey.
A zorse inherits many temperament traits from its zebra parent. While aggression is softened by the horse parent, these hybrids are extremely difficult to train.
Conclusion – Zebra Vs Horse Size
It’s apparent that despite the initial similarities between a zebra and a horse, the two have many differences. When it comes to zebra vs horse size, horses are much bigger in height and weight. However, even though horses are much bigger, they have much more amenable temperaments. It is this difference in temperament that led to horses becoming one of the favored companions to man.
If you have any questions, pop them in the comments below.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can zebras gallop?
Just like horses, zebras can walk, trot, canter, and gallop. However, they are not as fast as horses and will gallop at a slower rate.
Zebras are from the same family of animals as horses and are found in Africa. The zebra has a strong, sturdy body with a long neck, muscular legs, and powerful hindquarters. They have good hearing, vision, and smell and can achieve top speeds of up to 42 mph (68 km/h).
Do zebras bite?
Yes, zebras do bite. They are known to be aggressive and even dangerous. They are capable of killing each other in a fight with their powerful kicks. Zebras were also documented killing lions in self-defense and attacking and biting people who approached too closely. They developed these fighting abilities to be able to escape and defend themselves from different predators, mostly big cats such as lions and tigers.
Why can’t you ride a zebra like a horse?
Zebras are very difficult to domesticate and can be quite aggressive and hostile. It is also very difficult to catch them with a lasso and their reactions are very fast.
However, it is possible to ride a zebra but only a few people have achieved this so far. This is mostly because of their unpredictable and wild nature and fondness for kicking and biting. Also, because their conformation and gait are very different from horses, they are very difficult to ride.
Are horses stronger than zebra?
Horses are in general taller and heavier than zebras, but does that make them stronger? Some horse breeds were specifically bred to be able to pull heavy loads and help with heavy farm work while others have been bred for agility and speed. So, a draft horse will likely be stronger than a zebra, whereas a show pony will not be as strong as a zebra.
In terms of strength, zebras developed very good fighting and kicking techniques in order to protect themselves from predators. A zebra can deliver a 3000 pounds strong kick that can knock out the lion. That’s pretty strong, right?
Which is faster zebra or horse?
Horses can run faster than zebras. Zebras are in general smaller than horses, with shorter legs which is already a disadvantage for running speed. Horses are built for speed and have longer legs and bigger muscles. This means that when horses run they can use their larger muscles to move faster than zebras. Zebras can run as fast as 42 mph (68 km/h), while the fastest horses can reach up to 55 mph (88.5 km/h)!
Can zebra mate with horse?
Yes, a zebra and a horse can mate. The offspring is either a zorse or a hebra. To get a zorse, the horse’s female parent must be a zebra. A zebra female can only produce zorses. To get a hebra, the horse’s female parent must be a horse. A horse female can only produce hebras. This is not the only hybrid, though. Zebras can also mate with donkeys and in this case, the offspring is called zonkey. However, this kind of mating is not common and normally only happens with human intervention.
Michael Dehaan is a passionate horse owner, horse rider, and lover of all things equine. He has been around horses since he was a child, and has grown to become an expert in the field. He has owned and ridden a variety of horses of different breeds, and has trained many to compete in shows and competitions. He is an experienced horseman, having worked with and competed many horses, including his own. He is an active member of the equestrian community, participating in events and teaching riding lessons.