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Common and exotic, glamorous and ferocious, sociable and sullen: zebras mean many things to many people. But one facet of zebras universally fascinates: their stripes. The extraordinary beauty of zebras' striped coats has ensured their status as one of the world's most recognizable and popular animals. Zebra print is everywhere in contemporary society – on beanbags and bikinis, car seats and pencil cases. Many zoos house a zebra or two, and they are a common feature of children's books and films. Zebras have been immortalized in paint by artists, including George Stubbs and Lucian Freud, and they even have a road crossing named after them. But despite their ubiquity, the natural and cultural history of zebras remain a mystery to most.
Zebra is the most comprehensive and wide-ranging survey ever published of the natural and cultural history of this cherished animal, exploring its biology and cultural relevance in Africa and beyond. Few know that there are three species of zebra (plains, mountain, and Grévy's), that one of these is currently endangered, or that among the many subspecies was once found the quagga, an animal that once roamed southern Africa in large numbers before dying out in the 1880s. Drawing on a range of examples as dizzying as the zebra's stripes, Zebra shows how the zebra's history engages and intersects with subjects as diverse and rich as eighteenth-century humor, imperialism, and technologies of concealment. Including more than one hundred illustrations, many previously unpublished, Zebra offers a new perspective on this much-loved, much-depicted, but frequently misunderstood animal.