Cape Mountain Zebra: close-up details

We think of zebra in terms of black and white, but here the Cape Mountain zebra, a sub-species has a blush of brown showing up in finely aligned facial lines.   The details where the exquisitely patterned lines join at the mid line along the forehead in perfect symmetry, have me ogling in awe!  I described this species in an earlier post here.

The facial lines show up clearly in this close-up shot as the Cape Mountain Zebra forages on grass shoots in a fire ravaged area.

WPC: Favourite

This scene was an easy choice as my favourite shot of the year!   It lacks in photographic technique and neither is it a good composition, but rather it speaks in an existential sense – a wild untrammelled spirit ; flying along, unfettered, free.  It’s also unusual in that the Cape Mountain zebra are a species associated with mountains, and to have recorded this scene on the beach is (i think) a personal shot of a lifetime.   I posted it after the devastating storm in June and wrote about it here.




Bedazzled by Cape Mountain Zebra


Don’t you love these stripes?  Like wrinkled stockings, it’s irresistible to think that the legs need pulling up.  Each zebra has it’s own unique pattern and it’s interesting to spot the individuals from their distinctive markings.  The purpose of these stripes has led to various theories – one is that is it may help regulate temperature.  Another is camouflage, and from experience these animals have a way of blending into the landscape.  The dazzle of the stripes may also make it more difficult for predators to target a single animal when grouped together in a herd.


Some years ago, there was a happy event with the birth of a zebra foal (born 19 July 2011) here at the Cape of Good Hope Reserve.  Above is a shot of Pa and the male foal; mother and another female complete the small herd.  You’ll note their distinctive face patterns and how they differ especially the stripes below their eyes.



Perhaps the female, above (December 2012) is the mother of the foal.  The lines below her eyes are cleanly and evenly spaced.

I’ve kept track of the family observing them over the last few years and through photographs can identify the individuals.   Early in winter this year the group split and recently I photographed the alpha stallion with only one female and the assume that the young male is with the other.


The stallion above, photographed on 5 September this year and the female below.  See how their face patterns match up with the early 2012 shots?


Wikipedia has the following information:

The Cape mountain zebra (Equus zebra zebra) is a subspecies of mountain zebra that occurs in certain mountainous regions of the Western and Eastern Cape provinces of South Africa. It is the smallest of all existing zebra species and also the most geographically restricted. Although once nearly driven to extinction, the population has now been increased by several conservation methods, and is classified as Vulnerable by the IUCN.

Zebra crossing

The term “a dazzle” – the collective noun for zebra leapt to mind this morning as I stopped to watch the small family cross in front of me.   Okay! they’re not roaming free, but are contained here in the the nearby Cape Point Reserve.  They have featured in this blog in other posts, I ‘ve met them while cycling or hiking, but today it was a morning outing by car.  What a stroke of luck to find them on my route.  By the way how do you like that descriptive term, a dazzle?

The Cape Mountain zebra is a separate species from the Plains zebra, Hartmann’s and Burchell’s.  Their numbers dwindled right down to fewer than 80 individuals in the 1950’s due to excessive hunting and loss of habitat.  Their survival is thanks to the protection by a private landowner in the Cradock area which is now the Mountain Zebra National Park.   By the 1990’s the population had increased to a point where translocations to at least 25 other protected areas and game ranches took place. Today their status is listed as “vulnerable” by the IUCN with a population figure of about 2,800 animals.

They differ from the other zebra species and can be distinguished by their dewlap and white belly.  I marvel at the way their stripes intersect and checker at the top of the spine and tail, and how the patterns space down the leg and crowd around the ankles rather like sagging socks.  The last foal in this group was born in 2011, we keep hoping that another could be on the way.



Zebra are often hard to spot with their symmetry of pattern lines. They blend in well against a rocky background and the patterns confuse the predator when they are on the move.

“Symmetry is this week’s photo challenge.  Click here to find more examples of this week’s subject.