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Updated: Sep 13, 2020

We are often asked ‘how can you hunt a zebra?’ My response, without hesitation is, with a large amount of effort. They are amazingly weary and wild animals. Combine this with the fact that they are a herd animal with many sets of eyes watching for danger and not to mention their striking black and white striped coat, you have an exciting and unique specimen to hunt for. They are iconic Africa and will represent a safari to the Dark Continent better than any other specie on your list.

There are three species of zebras listed that occur across most of southern Africa. The plains zebra is the most common and the subspecies are distributed across much of southern and eastern Africa. The subspecies are commonly referred to as the Burchell's, Grant's, Selous', Maneless, Chapman's and Crawshay's zebra.

Burchell's Zebra | Equus Quagga Burchellii

The mountain zebra of southwest Africa has two subspecies the Cape and Hartmann's mountain zebra. They tend to have a sleek coat with a white belly and narrower stripes than the plains zebra. Both of the mountain zebra subspecies are classified as vulnerable.

Hartmann’s Mountain Zebra | Equus Zebra Hartmannae

The Grévy's zebra is the largest type, with a long, narrow head, making it appear rather mule-like. It is an inhabitant of the semi-arid grasslands of Ethiopia and northern Kenya. The Grévy's zebra is the rarest of the species and is classified as endangered.

Although zebra species may have overlapping ranges they do not tend to interbreed. Although it has been reported that in certain regions of Kenya, plains zebras and Grévy's zebra coexist, and fertile hybrids have occurred.

Grévy's Zebra | Equus Grevyi

In some areas the zebra population will inevitably need to be managed. In the right conditions they are prolific breeders and will eat an area completely bare of grass before moving to the next feeding grounds. The property we have access to in Namibia is completely free range which means the Hartmann's Mountain Zebra can move in and compete with the cattle for feed. In drought conditions, the everlasting effects of over grazing can occur in a matter of months. Similarly, our private game reserve in South Africa if the Burchell's Zebra aren't managed they will over graze to the point that the other plains game will suffer. Sustainable use of this natural resource along with solid game management principles are the best way to manage the herd and the environment in which they live.

There is one sound when in the bushveld that makes me smile every time and it’s that of the zebra. They make a high pitched bird like squeak that I nearly always confuse for a bird. They use these yips as a form of communication to locate each other and you will nearly always hear it if the herd is running away from a failed stalk. Both male and female zebra will fight like crazy to show their dominance and will kick and bite each other until the herd hierarchy is determined. This level of fighting inevitably leaves battle scars around the neck and face.

You wouldn’t be wrong in thinking that the zebra is blessed with the worst camouflage when you see them on open plains. You won’t believe it until you see it with your own eyes, when standing still, their stripes make them almost impossible to see in the shadows of the bush. Their markings are said to be as unique as a humans fingerprint with each animal having different coats. When they are bunched in a group their stripes are used to confuse predators and fool them into not knowing which animal to attack.

There is a misconception out there that the zebra is too much like a horse and people will cross them off the list prematurely. Consider the fact that in 1652, some 350+ years ago, the Dutch were the first European trading power to set up a permanent settlement in South Africa. I’m certain that if the zebra could be broken in reliably then someone would have been able to by now. These animals are wild, free spirited beasts that will take you on a great journey while leaving many footprints in the African soil.

Zebra in the field

Zebra are solid, muscular and heavy, they are an extremely strong animal. It is rare for a zebra to drop on the spot so a well manufactured projectile is recommended when hunting zebra. Any African animal, big or small, wounded with incorrect shot placement will give you a hard time finding them. Let it be known that you will spend weeks tracking a wounded zebra, you need to make that first shot count. This is why we recommend that you use the heaviest caliber rifle that you are comfortable shooting.

The preference when hunting zebra is a .30 cal or bigger with premium projectiles. Some good choices are the .30-06, .300 Mag. and .338 all using 200 to 250 grain bullets. On Renosterpan it is important to use the heaviest bullet weights available as you will be shooting relatively short range in heavy cover. On our concession in the Khomas Hochland Mountains you will need a flat shooting combination as distances can get out to over 200m. When bow hunting for zebra you need to shoot a fairly heavy set up for large game. If your current set up is working on sambar and red deer then it should be fine for hunting a zebra. They are classified as a category three large game animal which recommends that your draw mass is between 60 and 75lb with a total arrow weight of between 500 and 600 grains. As always an extremely sharp broad head is required.

When tracking zebra in the African soil you will notice that they have very similar spoor to that of a mule. Their print is approximately 12cm in length and around 8cm wide with a round front and semi pointed rear of the hoof. Their droppings are roughly 5cm in length shaped almost like a kidney.

When hunting zebra there is a marking on every animal that can help identify a clean shot and it’s called the zebra triangle. Where the black and white stripes meet on the front shoulder they form a triangle indicating where to place your shot when using a rifle. There may be some bone in the way when hunting with a bow but it gives you a good reference point to start with.

The best animal to take is one of the less dominant animals in the dazzle, either male or female. It is acceptable to hunt both sexes to maintain the herd numbers but most hunters will have a preference. Stallions, with their defined jaw bones, are usually taken for a shoulder mount and the females make beautiful flat skins. There is generally one old female that is the matriarch of the dazzle and a big herd stallion that keeps the other males in line. You don't want to take the herd bull because the remaining animals go in to disarray and the new male will kill any young to get the females cycling again. It isn't as disastrous when the matriarch is harvested however your goal should be to disrupt the herd as little as possible.

Photography Resource:

Three Zebra At A Waterhole - By Allan Davis, Past Bushveld Hunting Adventures Client

Hartmann's Mountain Zebra - By Yathin S Krishnappa - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

Grévy's zebra - By Rainbirder - Grevy's Zebra Stallion, CC BY-SA 2.0


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