Difference between a Zebra and a Horse

Updated on March 8, 2017

Have you ever thought of a zebra as just a horse with stripes? The zebra and the horse look so much alike and it seems like their only difference lies in the skin color or pattern. But if you look closely, you’ll discover that these two animals differ is many other ways. Continue reading and we’ll tell you all about the differences between a zebra and a horse.


A zebra

A zebra is an animal which belongs to the Equidae, or horse, family. The animal is native to Africa and roams the grasslands and woodlands. Its scientific name is Equus quagga. The term “zebra” comes from the old Portuguese word zevra, meaning “wild ass.” There are three species of zebras, namely: the Plains zebra, Mountain zebra, and Grevy’s zebra. The Grevy’s zebra is similar to an ass while Plains and Mountain zebras are much like horses.

Attributes and characteristics

The most distinct feature of a zebra is its black and white stripes. Similar to the uniqueness of a person’s fingerprint, each zebra has stripes and patterns that are unique to each animal. The zebra stripes or pattern continue up to its mane. The mane of the zebra sticks up and does not fall down on its back. The bone structure of a zebra is different to that of a horse. Zebras have solid tails. Their leg length is proportional to the height of their body. Zebras also have excellent eyesight and are equipped with night vision, though not as keen as other predators.

Traits and personality

Zebras are social animals and are commonly in herds. These animals, though, have never been domesticated and are usually found in the wild. They are herbivores. The average life span of a zebra is around 20 years. They are also able to make different sounds and even bark. When chased by predators, zebras run in zig-zag movements and they often kick and bite to defend themselves. Zebras are hunted for their skin. At present, the population of zebras has dwindled due to hunting and the destruction of the lands they live in.

A horse

A horse is also a member of the Equidae family or Equids. Its scientific name is Equus ferus caballus. There are many types of horses and ponies, with over 350 known breeds. Their sizes vary among different breeds. The different types are classified into four main groups, namely: light horses, heavy horses, ponies and feral horses. The light horses are those with small bones and thin legs, weighing less than 1300 lbs. Heavy horses have large bones and sturdy legs, weighing up to 2000 lbs. Ponies are the ones which are not taller than 58 inches. And the feral horses are the wild kinds.

Attributes and characteristics

Horses can have one solid body color or a combination of two or three colors. The colors vary among different breeds. The horse’s mane and tail are of the same color and they can match the body color or be lighter or darker. Horses have partially solid tails, with just the top made up of bone and long hair covering that and flowing to the ground. Hoses have excellent day and night vision. Among land mammals, they have the largest eyes. They are lateral-eyed, meaning their eyes are at the sides of their head. This enables them to have a vision range of more than 350o.

Traits and personality

Horses are herbivores. They can live up to 25-30 years. These animals have long, sturdy legs and a well developed sense of balance. These traits enable them to have a strong fight-or-flight response. They can either run fast and flee from their predators or stand their ground to protect their young when threatened. Horses are often hunted for their meat and leather. They were domesticated even before 3500 BC. At our present time, horses are involved in various functions and activities including transportation, agriculture, entertainment, sports, and police work. Horses even play a vital role in equine-assisted therapy. This is the kind of therapy that uses horses to promote emotional healing and growth among those who suffer from abuse, trauma, depression, and other mental health issues.

Zebra vs Horse

What is the difference between a zebra and a horse?

A zebra has distinct black and white stripes all over its body while a horse can have one solid color or multiple colors in different patterns (but not stripes like a zebra). Zebras’ legs are shorter compared to that of the horse’s. The zebra’s mane is upright and has the same black and white pattern as their coat does. The horse, on the other hand, has a free-flowing mane and the color is usually the same as its tail. Zebras have tails that are more solid than horses’, whose tails mainly consist of hair. Zebras also have the ability to make different sounds or noises and even bark. Horses can neigh, nicker, or squeal. Zebras are very hard to domesticate because of their herd dynamics and highly aggressive attitude. Conversely, horses have been domesticated for thousands of years and are now used by people and even work together with people on various activities.

Comparison Chart

Zebra Horse
Have black and white stripes in their entire bodyAre one solid color or multiple colors
Length of legs is approximately equal to the height of body; they have shorter legsHave longer, more sturdy legs
Mane is upright and the stripes continue on to the maneMane is free-flowing and the color is the same as the tail
Have solid tailsHave less solid tails, mostly made of hair
Have the ability to make different noises and even barkCan neigh, nicker, and squeal
Almost impossible to domesticate because of their herd dynamics and the personality of the animal (much more aggressive than horses)Easy to domesticate and have been domesticated even before 3500 BC


Watch this video to see how a zebra is different from a horse.