Do Zebras Hibernate? (Explained for Beginners)

by Chukay Alex
Updated on

Animals have developed several techniques to survive the winter when food and water are scarce.

Some migrate to less cold-prone areas, while others resist or adapt to the effects of winter events, such as growing a thicker coat of fur.

Other animals hibernate or sleep for a long period during the winter.

You probably think of a bear when you think of an animal hibernating, but did you know that other animals do as well? But do zebras hibernate? Let’s find out.

Do Zebras Hibernate? 

Do Zebras Hibernate

No, zebras do not hibernate. Hibernation is a voluntary state that animals enter when food is scarce and to minimize exposure to the winter elements.

Some animals that live in extreme cold or hot climates hibernate to conserve energy or survive for extended periods without food sources.

But that’s totally different for these striped animals. Instead of hibernating, they migrate. This is because food and water are more abundant where they live.

Zebras migrate throughout the dry and rainy seasons. They usually travel North to South, and then South to North.

As the dry season draws to an end, zebras begin to migrate from North to South.

This article contains fun facts on zebras and hibernation, so keep reading to learn more.

Here is an article I wrote on do zebras sleep standing up

What Does It Mean For An Animal To Hibernate?

Hibernation is a state of low activity and metabolic depression that some animal species experience.

Hibernation is a seasonal heterothermy distinguished by low body temperature, slow breathing and heart rate, and low metabolic rate. It is most common during the winter months.

Although the term was originally reserved for “deep” hibernators such as rodents, it has since been expanded to include animals such as bears.

Currently, it is applied based on active metabolic suppression rather than any absolute decrease in body temperature.

Many experts believe that the processes of daily torpor and hibernation are interconnected and use similar mechanisms.

During the summer, the equivalent is aestivation.

Animals hibernate to conserve energy when there is insufficient food available. To save energy, an endothermic animal reduces its metabolic rate and, as a result, its body temperature.

Depending on the species, ambient temperature, time of year, and the animal’s body condition, hibernation can last days, weeks, or months.

Note that hibernation is not the same as a normal night’s sleep. During the hibernation period, the body undergoes significant physical changes.

The body temperature of an animal drops dramatically, as do its respiration and heart rate. The effect can be so strong that a sleeping animal may appear to be dead.

Before entering hibernation, animals need to store enough energy to last through the duration of their dormant period, possibly as long as an entire winter.

Larger species become hyperphagic, eating a large amount of food and storing the energy in fat deposits.

Where Do Zebras Sleep In Winter?

Most Zebras are mostly found in Africa and even during winter, the weather is still warm and okay enough for zebras to live their everyday life.

They lay on the floor when they sleep because winter is usually warm in Africa.

Zebras will likely choose to live in a warm climate where food is available all year round.

However, when they are domestic they have certain privileges that wild zebras don’t have such as shelter in harsh weather conditions.

So it’s right to say that zebras can do fine living outside throughout the winter. As long as they are metabolically healthy and receive enough calories, they will be just fine.

What Do Zebras Do When They Sleep?

Zebras also engage in Rapid Eye Movements sleep, which is more like a deep. This usually occurs during the night hours, however, they take naps during the day. 

One feature worthy of note is the fact that zebras sleep while standing. They do this with the aid of their knees that lock.

This helps to prevent them from falling while in this position. However this kind of sleep isn’t considered sleeping, it is rather considered to be a nap. 

Another amazing fact to know is that zebras do not sleep alone. They sleep when they are in large groups so that they can be alerted of danger.

Interestingly, some zebras keep watch while others sleep, this is basically for safety purposes.

They do this to alert others when there are predators around. They often take turns to keep watch over themselves, it’s amazing how cooperative these creatures are.  

Also check out this article I wrote on are zebras faster than horses

How Long Does a Zebra Hibernate?

As earlier stated zebras do not hibernate. However, for animals that do, hibernation may last days, weeks, or months depending on the species, ambient temperature, time of year, and the individual’s body condition. 

Some animals, such as bears, can hibernate for up to 150 days. When bats are left alone, they can hibernate for extended periods.

Big brown bats can hibernate for 64-66 days in the wild, but one in captivity can hibernate for 344 days.

True hibernating animals sleep so deeply that waking up is difficult and time-consuming. These animals may wake up once or twice every few weeks to eat and relieve themselves.

Light sleep hibernators wake up more frequently during the winter and go about their business while awake.

Since zebras do not hibernate, they do not need to store fat and bypass the winter months.

Also, zebras are most predominant in the tropics of Capricorn and Cancer. It is mostly accepted that these areas have two seasons, rainy and dry seasons.

And, one of the most astounding features of these areas is their fast-growing grass ability.

Grasses grow in plentiful supply and can sustain the zebras’ population without giving them the need to hibernate.

Do Zebras Come Out In The Cold?

Zebras are pretty tough animal and can survive a range of temperatures. However, they do not get the same thickness of winter coat that horses will get warm in the cold.

Regardless they do just fine in the cold.

They have a high metabolism and as long as they have enough food, that’ll serve as fuel and generate heat to keep them warm.

If the cold gets too much for them to handle, they probably move to a warmer climate.

Here are some ways zebras can survive cold temperatures;

  • They increase heat production via shivering and non-shivering thermogenesis.
  • They reduce heat loss from their body surface with the help of fur or subcutaneous adipose tissue. 
  • And then migration is a very good option to avoid extremely cold conditions. If they find themselves in an extremely cold environment, they will migrate to a warmer place.


Hibernation is a state of low activity and metabolic depression experienced by several animal species. During the winter, this is a normal occurrence in most animals.

In the case of zebras, which are found in Africa, the winter season is usually warm, so they are unaffected by the winter season. As a result, zebras do not hibernate.

Animals hibernate in extreme cold or hot climates to conserve energy or survive for extended periods without food sources.

Zebras, on the other hand, migrate when the weather conditions become unsuitable for them.

Apart from migration, one way zebras survive cold weather is to develop a strong metabolism, which, as long as they have enough food, will serve as energy and generate heat to keep them warm.

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About the author

Chukay Alex

Chukay is a season writer and farmer who enjoys farming and growing plants in his backyard farm. When he is not farming you can find him at the nearest lawn tennis court, hitting a mean backhand down the line.


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