Rare Colored Zebras

So our Saturday PhoBlog had this photo:

And… people asked a lot of questions.

So, today I give you this article on Zebra coloring variations.

Click image to go to websie


Zebras always have black and white stripes, right? Not so, as the following examples show. Not only is every zebra different in the exact pattern and width of their stripes, but zebras also come in black, blonde and brown. The can be spotted or have parts of their body with no pattern at all!



A color morph with more black pigment is called ‘melanistic’. This is a recessive trait and so remains rare in any large population. The coloration of melanistic zebras varies from wide stripes to nearly complete black coverage. (It is not clear that all black colored zebras are due to melanism but it is the most likely explanation.)

Examples (wild): Namibia (2006, 2009), Botswana (2016)


Mottled Zebras

Some zebras show broken or distorted stripes and blotches. These variation are particularly rare and the location and time of the photographs available is not clear–nor is the genetic basis for the disruption of the normal stripe pattern. This may amount to a relatively even pattern of spots,

Examples: Kenya (2012)


White spots on black

in some cases melanism combined with the stripes of the zebra results in a spotted coat pattern (white on black) such as with the foal shown right and the adult zebra photographed in the sixties in Zambia (see link below). In other cases the stripes just seem to break up into spots (black on white).

Black spots on white

In some cases the color pattern is reversed. Like Marble who has a patch covered in black spots.

Examples (wild): Zimbabwe (2008), Tanzania (2015)

Brown Stripes

Some zebras have stripes that are a dark brown rather than black. This color is natural for young foals but rare in adults (“Erythrism”).

Examples (wild): source unknown (2014).



At the other end of the pigment scale is albinism and leucism where zebras lack black pigment and so have pale or missing stripes. They are also referred to (for obvious reasons) as ‘blonde zebras’ or ‘white phase zebras’.

A small herd of blonde zebras live at the Mount Kenya Wildlife Conservancy where a number of blonde zebras were released together allowing the recessive coloring to persist in future generations of the group (rather than being breed out by zebras with the genetically dominant normal striping).

When the effect of the leucism is less extreme the zebra displays brown or reddish-brown stripes (Tanzania, 19??).

Or black stripes may be present on the body but missing on the legs or legs and under-belly.

Examples (captive): Hawaii (1998), Kenya (2007)

Examples (wild): Kenya (2004)

Reduced Striping

Some zebras do not have stripes that are paler, but just smaller, leaving large sections of their body plain white.

Examples (wild): Tanzania (1987, 2008)



Zebroids, or zebra horse hybrids have the shape of a horse but combine horse colors with zebra stripes.

The example shown is brown but any color including piebald is possible.

Hybrds of zebras with other equids (donkey etc) are also called zebroids also they also go by more specific names such a zedonk and zorse.

Like many hybrids, zebroids are sterile.

Zebra x Donkey
Zebra x Donkey | Source

Another animal that looks a lot like a brown zebra is the now-extinct sub-species of the plains zebra called the quagga.

The quagga had a striped head neck and forequarters, brown body and white legs.

There is a project to recreate the quagga by selective breeding of plains zebras to resurrect its distinctive coloration.

See also:

And this guy?

This picture from Tanzania (2007) seems to show an unusual zebra with narrow stripes, a mainly while body and black mane.


HORSE AND MAN is a blog in growth... if you like this, please pass it around!

Post a comment!

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *