I’m a big fan of zebras. I just love seeing the contrast between the white skin and the black stripes, and thinking about how the patterns on zebras are as individual to them as fingerprints are to us. I love to see the alternating stripes of black and white in the hair of their manes. While very striking to look at, I will admit that zebras are a little boring to stitch. I’m working on a very large needlepoint canvas over 5 feet tall—it is a zebra standing in tall grasses, looking at you from over her shoulder, with a brightly colored bird perched on her back. It’s taking me a long time to make my way up those long black and white legs, only to be followed by a big expanse of black and white rump! Stitching the colorful bird will be my reward for getting that far up the canvas.
But I digress. Baby zebras or foals are born with brown and white stripes which turn to black and white as they mature. There are three species of zebras in Africa, and the striping patterns vary somewhat among the species, particularly the width and length of the stripes. All species have a triangular shape to the stripes on their forequarters.
The form of camouflage created by the black and white stripes is called “disruptive coloration” and breaks up the outline of the body. This serves to make them look less distinct during times of low light when their predators are most active. The stripes also serve to dissipate heat and help the zebras handle the intense solar radiation of their environments.