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African Animal of the Week: Zebra

african animal of the week zebra
Unless otherwise specified, all images courtesy of Big Game Hunting Adventures

The zebra is a large species of equid that inhabits much of southern and eastern Africa. Keep reading to find out everything you ever wanted to know about zebra hunting in Africa.

When many people think about African animals, the zebra is probably one of the first animals that springs to mind. That should not be surprising because zebra are one of the most distinctive and most common animals on the entire continent. Along with kudu, impala, and warthog, zebra are a staple of virtually any African plains game hunt.

Zebra Description

Scientific Name: Equus quagga

The zebra is a large species of equid that inhabits most of southern and eastern Africa. There are two recognized species of zebra that are hunted today: the plains zebra (Tanzania, Mozambique, Zambia, Zimbabwe, South Africa, and Namibia) and the mountain zebra (Namibia and South Africa). Both species are very similar in appearance at first glance. However, mountain zebra (below) have a dewlap on their neck, which plains zebra lack. Additionally, their stripes are slightly thinner and lack the "shadow" stripes that many plains zebra have.

african animal of the week zebraHartmann

Plains and mountain zebra are similar in size, with a mature stallion (male) reaching a maximum height of nearly five feet tall at the shoulder and weighing almost 850 pounds. Mares (females) are slightly smaller, weighing nearly 760 pounds.

The most distinctive feature of a zebra is the animal's black and white stripes. Just like fingerprints on humans, no two zebra have the same pattern. It is uncertain exactly what the purpose of the stripes on a zebra is. However, one theory is that the stripes act as camouflage. I can say from firsthand experience that their black and white striped pattern is more difficult to spot in the wild than you would think.

Zebras are grazing animals and are most often found in open grasslands and moderately wooded areas. Regardless of where they live, they will never venture far from a good water source, as they must drink water daily.

Zebra herds consist of 5-10 animals, consisting of breeding mares. their young, and a dominant stallion. Upon reaching sexual maturity, males are kicked of the herd and will live in a bachelor herd until they are able to take over their own herd of mares from an older stallion.

Zebra Sex Determination

It can be very difficult to tell females apart from males when zebra hunting. Though there is a slight difference in size, there are few anatomical features that obviously separate them. The only 100% guaranteed way to tell males (left) apart from females (right) is to look for a penis or testicles, which may or may not be visible from a particular angle.

Because of this, many hunters have shot a stallion, only to discover that it was a mare (or vice versa). Luckily, zebra licenses are usually issued without regards to the gender of the animal.

african animal of the week zebra male female

Recommended Calibers for Zebra Hunting

Though zebra are not nearly as tough Cape buffalo, they are still very large and tough animals. The .308 Winchester (using premium 180gr bullets) is the minimum cartridge I recommend for hunting zebra. The .30-06 Springfield, the .300 Winchester Magnum, the .338 Winchester Magnum, and the 8mm Remington Magnum are also great choices for hunting zebra.

There is nothing wrong with hunting zebra with a cartridge like the 9.3x62mm Mauser, .375 H&H Magnum, or a .416 Rigby. Even when using larger cartridges such as these, a controlled expansion bullet (such as a Nosler Partition) will do surprisingly little damage to the meat or cape of the animal, while at the same time providing plenty of knockdown power.

If you want to bowhunt zebra, you should use an arrow weighing at least 500 grains and shoot it from a bow with at least a 70-pound draw weight.

Zebra Hunting Methods

Most zebra hunting is conducted via walk and stalk. This usually starts by driving through areas that zebra normally visit and looking for fresh tracks. Once suitable tracks that appear reasonably fresh are found, they are followed on foot until hunters catch up with the zebra. Especially if they are feeding and are not alarmed, zebra do not normally move at a very rapid pace and it is usually possible to catch up with them in a reasonable amount of time.

Some zebra are also hunted from a blind overlooking a water hole, like in the video below. This is an especially common tactic with bowhunters.


 Zebra Shot Placement

Even though they are fairly large animals, a zebra hit through the heart and/or lungs with a powerful enough bullet or arrow will not go far at all. When the animal is standing broadside, aim at the center of the shoulder, about one third of the way up the body.

zebra hunting shot placement broadside


If the animal is quartering towards you, aim slightly forward of the shoulder and aim slightly to the rear if it is quartering away. A bowhunter should be very cautious about taking a shot on a zebra that is presenting a shot that is quartering towards you. However, a quartering away shot is an almost ideal shot with a bow.

Also, make sure that you are aiming for a specific stripe on the zebra and "call the color" before taking your shot.


zebra hunting shot placement quartering towards

Choosing the Right Zebra

Zebra are slightly different from most animals hunted in Africa in that they do not have horns. Instead, their trophy is their beautiful and uniquely-colored hide. Zebra are often quite aggressive and fights between zebras are not uncommon. This, coupled with the fact that they are prey for so many different predators, means that older zebras, especially males, will usually have many scars on their hide, while younger males and females will often have "cleaner" hides with fewer scars.

As far as trophy quality goes, neither is really better than the other, it's all just a matter of what the hunter wants. Some hunters want a pristine hide to make a rug out of, other hunters want a zebra hide with lots of "character" that displays an interesting life with lots of fights with other zebras and close calls with predators. With a good set of binoculars, and a little practice, judging a zebra hide from a moderate distance is relatively easy. In areas with plenty of zebra, finding the right zebra is usually not too difficult.

Cost to Hunt Zebra

Even though there is a fair amount of demand for zebra among hunters in Africa, they are fortunately quite common, which drives the price of a zebra hunt down somewhat. The price of a zebra hunt varies from country to country, but the trophy fee for a zebra will range from $900-$2,000, with an average of around $1,000.

Ready to start planning that zebra hunting trip?

All images, unless specified, courtesy of Big Game Hunting Adventures

Like what you see here? You can read more great hunting articles by John McAdams at The Big Game Hunting Blog. Follow him on Twitter @TheBigGameHunt.

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African Animal of the Week: Zebra