Lately I’ve been thinking about sex: sex is weird. Natural, and weird. Nature is probably at its strangest when its reproducing itself. It’s so essential—basically the most important evolutionary drive, but rarely appreciated in all its odd diversity. So I thought I’d start a weekly feature exploring the sex lives of animals. This week I’d like to tell you about zebras.
There are several different species of zebras, but two basic groups, as far as sex is concerned. There are the Grevy’s zebras and then there is everybody else. The regular old zebras hang around in harems—yes, that is the technical term—with one guy zebra giving it to a group of lady zebras as they come into heat, or estrus. Harems work basically how you’d expect, with the male occasionally getting pushed out by another, more virile male, and females sort of getting along and sort of competing for his attention. The females have a pecking order, where the dominant females’ offspring tend to have a better chance at survival. Interestingly, the higher status a female is, the more likely she is to have female offspring.
The Grevy’s zebras, because they live in more arid environments and don’t share water, are the modern gals of the zebra world, hitting it and quitting it as they please.
When a mare is starting to go into estrus, the guy zebra follows her around, smelling her pee, nipping her lovingly, and maybe nuzzling or licking her genitals (SOUND FAMILIAR, FELLAS?). When her pee gets to smelling like how sexy pee smells, the male zebra might try and mount her, but nope, she kicks him away. That zebra pee can be a real cocktease. He signals his readiness by biting her on the butt, but sorry fella, no go. This can take days.
When she is good and ready, her zebra vaginal lips engorged and protruding, the female zebra “presents:” she stands straight-legged and straddled wide, tail held high and vagina out for zebra god and zebra everybody to see. She gnashes her teeth, pretending to chew on something, sometimes giving a look back behind her, because she knows what guys like. When it’s time, as the male is mounting her, she’ll even back right up onto that zebra dick.
The male then enters her with his GIANT penis. Everyone in the equus family has got an enormous dong. Youtube will show you. And that’s that. Unless you are Grevy’s zebra. Since Grevy mares are polyandrous, the guys want to make sure their sperms are the ones that impregnate their zebra lays. So males mount females at hourly intervals, flushing the other sperm from their reproductive systems. So much so that they’ve evolved giant balls strictly for this purpose! A male Grevy’s zebra has, on average, a full pound of balls. That’s so much balls.
And THAT is how zebras are made! To be continued next week, with more of the animal kingdom and their sex habits. Perhaps we’ll all learn some new moves.
Sources: Zebra Reproduction, by Cassandra N.V. Nunez, Cheryl S. Asa, and Daniel I. Rubenstein.
The Behavior Guide to African Mammals, Richard Despard Estes