Zebra vs Horse: Size and Speed Compared

Horses and zebras may seem similar but these animals differ in many ways. Horses are typically much larger than zebra. And horses can run faster. On average horse’s top speed is around 50 mph while a zebra’s tops out at 35 mph. The horse has more endurance. It can run for longer periods of time without tiring out compared to the zebra.

This article reveals the differences between a horse and a zebra. We will compare their size and speed characteristics. This article also explains if you can ride a zebra like a horse.

What Is the Difference Between a Zebra and a Horse?

The horse and zebra belong to the same horse family of hoofed mammals. They belong to the Equidae family (as well as asses do). However, they come from different species. Zebras can be found in savannas, grasslands, and plains in Africa.

A horse can be found in a wide range of habitats. This includes grasslands, savannas, scrubland, and semi-arid desert areas all over the world (except for Antarctica). Horses are well-known as horseback riding animals. Horses were first domesticated for this purpose (although it is believed that they got tamed by hunters).

While domesticated horses can be tamed easily and ridden under a saddle, they cannot survive in wild for long without human help. Therefore you will never see horses living on their own out there. Unlike zebras who live freely even nowadays.

horse and foal standing outside

Horse vs Zebra Conformation Comparison

A zebra has rounded and larger ears than a horse. The horse’s tail is thick while the zebra’s tail is solid. Horses have a long and hairy mane. While zebras feature a short-haired mane. Horses have stronger muscles. They can pull heavier loads despite lower speeds.

As for the body color, zebra’s stripes are very helpful in concealing them from predators (especially the horse’s favorite, lions). Therefore, zebras do not need to be camouflaged like horses that can blend into their background. The stripes end up with a pattern unique to each animal.

Horses have a wider range of color options. They can be black, grey, pink, brown, white, and more. Some of the horse breeds feature spots and white patches all over the body. White marks on the face and legs are a common thing to horses.

Zebras and horses can snuffle and snort. In case of alert, a horse whinnies while a zebra produces a barking sound like a small dog. They make such noises in order to alert other members of their herd.

As for nutrition, both the horse and zebra are herbivores. The common horse feed includes hay and grass. While zebras prefer grass, bushes, and shrubs.

Zebra vs Horse Size Comparison

As for the body shape, zebras look more like donkeys. They are usually smaller and more compact than horses. Zebra size is more lightweight than its horse counterparts. Zebras weigh around 300 pounds. The largest breed is Grevy zebras that look more like donkeys. The mountain zebra is relatively smaller than Grevy’s zebras. And the plains zebra is the smallest representative. While the average horse weight is more than twice that much at 800 pounds. Some horse breeds reach even more weight – up to 2000 pounds!

Horses have long legs compared to zebras. Zebras have shorter heavier bodies with stocky limbs compared to horses’ longer thinner ones. Some horse breeds feature feathering on the lower limbs.

three zebras grazing in field

Zebra vs Horse Speed Comparison

Horses have longer legs which make them faster creatures with the average top speed being around 50 mph (compared to 35 mph for zebras). Horses can gallop for a long time without getting tired. Zebras have shorter legs and cannot maintain speed as well making them slower at an average of 30 mph.

Zebra vs Horse Life Expectancy Comparison

Wild horses live up to 25 years and more if cared for properly. Zebras have a shorter life expectancy of 20 years or less.

woman riding zebra

Can You Ride a Zebra Like a Horse?

In general, this is possible but not recommended. Because zebras are more unpredictable compared to horses. Always wear a safety helmet when you ride a horse or a zebra. Some horse breeds feature less horsy temperament. This makes the animal easier to train them from childhood. While some others can be wilder and need more experienced riders with good horsemanship skills. In this case, they will obey the rider’s commands.

Horses also learn faster than zebras, their training period takes one-third of the time required for a zebra learning process.

But you can ride zebra too. It won’t be comfortable though, because their backs are narrower than those of horses. Plus, zebras tend to have shorter necks. But if you like horseback riding and your horse is out of service – try using a zebra instead. These two creatures will make similar mounts despite the differences we discussed above.

zorse grazing on paddock

What Is a Zorse?

What is a cross between a horse and a zebra called? It’s called a zorse. There are zorse breeds that feature horse characteristics. These are body shapes and colors with zebra stripes on them from horse stallions mating with zebra mares (the offspring). Zorses often act like horses but maybe leaner. It’s due to their lack of feathering on their lower legs. However, they still require exercise, grooming, and training just like regular horses do.

Zorses can be different in color. The common coat colors include brown, red, great, tan, black, and white. The top speed of a zorse is 40 mph. The average zorse weight is 500 – 1000 pounds. And the average height is 12.5 to 16 hands. Zorses typically live for 15 and up to 30 years.

For horse owners, a zorse can be a great addition to their horse menagerie. It may become an excellent horseback riding companion for children. As well as inexperienced riders who want something not as big as a horse but with similar qualities.

two horses and zebra on grass

Zebra and Horse Herd Animals Compared

To sum up, we found that zebras are slower and less agile than horses. The zebra’s extra stripes make it more difficult for predators to see them in the grasslands of Africa. Plus, the animal tends to easily escape danger in a zigzag manner. Zebras also have much stronger social bonds and live in herds (family groups) with other zebras. Instead of on their own like horses do. Horses can’t camouflage as well as zebra. Because they don’t have those long black-and-white stripes.

Horses are faster and better at jumping over obstacles (including fences). This is why people often ride them rather than walk alongside or lead them through the terrain themselves. If you’re looking for a riding companion, a horse is a better choice. If you’re an avid rider and want to get a new experience. Try taming a zebra which is not an easy thing to do. But new emotions are guaranteed.