Zebras are known for their resemblance to horses, but with bold, black-and-white stripes all over their bodies. They have long faces and necks, barrel-shaped chests, strong legs and pointed hooves. No two zebras have the same stripe pattern.
Unlike other zebras, Hartmann's mountain zebras have vertical stripes on their neck and torso and horizontal stripes on their backside. They also have white, non-striped bellies. Their coats can sometimes appear reddish; this is due to their habit of rolling around in dirt and mud. Hartmann's mountain zebras are smaller than plains or Grévy's zebras.
Hartmann’s zebras are one of the smaller members of the zebra family, standing at 4 to 5 feet (1.2-1.5 meters) tall, with an average body length between 6 to 8 ½ feet (2-2.6 meters). Adults weigh between 450-820 pounds (204-372 kilograms).
Males and females are about the same size, and there are few physical differences between them.
Mountain zebras are adapted to live in dry, rocky areas and semi-wooded grasslands. Their range is limited to a few mountainous regions in southwestern Angola and the coastal mountain ranges of Namibia.
Like many members of the horse family, Hartmann’s mountain zebras mostly rely on body language to communicate. They are also capable of making noises to express their contentment, raise an alarm or challenge others.
Hartmann’s mountain zebras are herbivores. In the wild, they graze and browse for grasses, shrubs and leaves to eat. At the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute, they eat a diet of hay, grass, pellets and browse (leafy branches).
Hartmann’s mountain zebras are known to take dust baths, rolling around vigorously in dust and mud, which clings to their fur. This helps keep their skin cool and protected from insects. After the zebras leave the area, the shallow depressions left in the ground become mini-habitat areas for native vegetation, effectively making the zebras ecosystem engineers.
As sociable animals, plains zebras tend to live in herds of many individuals. However, Hartmann’s mountain zebras naturally form smaller herds, typically of one male and two to five females. In the wild, young males often live by themselves for a few years.
Zebra herds travel together, rotating between habitat areas in search of grasses and water. They also travel between higher elevation areas in the warmer months and lowland savannah and scrublands in the cooler months.
With less than 25,000 individuals left in the wild, the biggest threat to this species’ survival is habitat loss and fragmentation as the result of livestock production and agriculture. Many of their native mountain ranges are now protected areas, but conflict with nearby humans occurs when they wander outside of their protected range. This species is also vulnerable to illegal hunting and trapping for their meat and skins. In addition, the effects of climate change have brought more intense droughts to their native habitats, limiting their natural supply of water, food and other resources.