Communication and Perception
Mountain zebras communicate using mainly visual and auditory cues. Because no two individuals have identical stripe patterns, body pattern can be used for individual indentification. At close range, individuals can also be recognized by smell.
Among all members of the horse family, the positioning of the ears, the stretching of the corners of the mouth, the exposure of the teeth, the opening of the mouth, and the positioning of the head and tail serve as signals of an individuals’ mood or intentions. Ears laid flat back against the head signal threat, especially when accompanied by a lowered head and open mouth. During greeting rituals, mountain zebras touch noses and communicate rank by the positioning of the ears. As a gesture of inferiority, younger individuals hold their ears to the side and make chewing motions with exposed incisors when greeting adults. (Klingel, 1990; Penzhorn, 1988)
Mountain zebras make a variety of vocalizations. Stallions make a high-pitched alarm call or snort to alert herd members to danger. Bachelor stallions make a drawn-out squeal when confronted by a herd stallion. In order to express contentment when feeding, mountain zebras make a soft sound caused by forcing air between closed lips. (Joubert, 1972a; Penzhorn, 1984; Penzhorn, 1988)
Communication Channels: visual; tactile; acoustic; chemical
Perception Channels: visual; tactile; acoustic; chemical