Africa is home to some of the world’s most famous animals, including those that are known for their striking stripes.
In this article, we will take a closer look at some of the most notable African animals with stripes and explore their unique characteristics, behaviors, and habitats.
African Animals With Stripes
- Scientific Name: Proteles cristata
Aardwolves are hyena species native to East and Southern Africa.
Despite the name, they are neither aardvarks nor wolves. The name means “earth wolf” in Afrikaans and refers to the underground dens they live in and their canine-like looks.
Unlike other hyena species, aardwolves are insectivores and mostly feed on insects and their larvae – using their long tongues with papillae, one aardwolf can eat as many as 300,000 termites per night!
These shy animals have yellowish fur with vertical black stripes, long manes on their necks and backs, and bushy tails with black tips. Aardwolves also have several diagonal stripes on their front and back legs.
They inhabit dry, open savannas and grasslands, and rest in burrows during the day before appearing at night to find food. They are listed as species of Least Concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and their numbers have not been decreasing in recent years.
2. Striped Hyena
- Scientific Name: Hyaena hyaena
Striped hyenas, as the name suggests, are species of hyena covered with stripes that are native to North and East Africa.
They can be identified by their broad heads with dark eyes, long and pointed ears, and bushy manes from neck to tail. Striped hyenas have golden yellow, brown, or gray coats with black stripes that camouflage them well in the tall grass.
The smallest and least studied of the hyena family, striped hyenas are rather shy nocturnal species and feed on carcasses of large animals. Thanks to extremely strong jaws and sharp teeth, these scavengers can chew up bones, hooves, and horns. In some instances, they might take down larger prey like sheep, a goat, or a donkey; stripped hyenas will also eat dates, melons, cucumbers, and their favorite, peaches.
Unfortunately, their population has been decreasing, and according to the last global survey in 2014, there were between 5,000-10,000 animals. This has led to the IUCN declaring them as Near Threatened species.
- Scientific Name: Okapia johnstoni
Okapis are large animals endemic to the northeast Democratic Republic of the Congo in central Africa.
Although they resemble zebras because of their white-and-black striped hindquarters and front legs, these animals are actually the only living relatives of giraffes. That’s why people also refer to them as forest giraffes, Congolese giraffes, or zebra giraffes.
Okapis weigh between 440 and 770 pounds and have ears that can rotate independently, allowing the animal to listen for sounds in front and behind. Just like giraffes, males have short horn-like structures (ossicones).
They have chocolate to reddish brown coats contrasted with white ankles and horizontal stripes and rings. This helps okapis blend well with the dense rainforest flora and mimic the appearance of sunlight coming through trees. The bold pattern also makes it easier for calves to follow their mothers through the dark rainforest.
Mostly diurnal, solitary, and elusive, these striped African animals feed on leaves, buds, grasses, fruits, and fungi. Because of habitat loss, illegal mining, and hunting, okapis are listed as Endangered species by the IUCN.
- Scientific Name: Hippotigris
Zebras, one of the most famous African animals with stripes, are members of the horse family (equids). They live in eastern and southern Africa, around savannas, grasslands, woodlands, shrublands, and mountain areas.
There are 3 zebra species in existence today: Greevy’s zebras, plains zebras, and mountain zebras. The black-and-white striped coats come in different patterns and are unique to each animal.
Grevy’s zebras have the thinnest of stripes that extend down to the white belly, mountain zebras have vertical stripes on their necks and torsos, while plains zebras have broad stripes that are horizontal on the rump.
Various biologists have debated the purpose of such coats:
- it helps blend with the environment
- to confuse predators and make it harder for them to determine the number of zebras in the group
- as a warning to others
- to better control body temperature
- as a deterrent for biting flies with this theory being selected as a consensus among biologists.
And to answer the most-asked question: zebras have white coats with black (or brown) stripes. However, some zebras are born with a genetic variation that makes them black with white stripes. Also, if we were to shave zebras, we would see that they have black skin underneath.
These playful, social, and resilient animals have keen hearing, excellent eyesight, and powerful kicks to protect themselves from lions, hyenas, or African wild dogs. To protect the herd, a male (stallion) will warn the others and move to the back of the group to defend against the predators while females (mares) and young (foals) run away to safety.
IUCN lists Grevy’s zebras as Endangered (under 2,000 individuals), plains zebras as Near Threatened (150,000-250,000), and mountain zebras as Vulnerable species (around 35,000).
5. Giant Eland
- Scientific Name: Taurotragus derbianus
Giant elands are the world’s largest antelopes that live in the open forests, glades, and savannas of western and central Africa.
They are also known as Lord Derby’s elands (after Edward Smith-Stanley, 13th Earl of Derby) and greater elands and have unique looks. They have spiraled, V-shaped horns, reddish brown coats with 8-15 distinct vertical white stripes on the torso, and hanging dewlaps (flap of skin that hangs under the neck).
When comparing the two giant eland subspecies, t. d. derbianus have 15 body stripes while the larger t. d. gigas have only around 12.
These animals live in large groups of 15-25+ individuals and are very elusive. This makes it hard to observe them as they often run away at speeds of up to 43 mph.
Giant elands are both browsers and grazers and will feed on grasses, foliage, and branches. The IUCN lists the species as Vulnerable.
- Scientific Name: Tragelaphus eurycerus
Bongos are one of the largest forest antelopes and the third-largest antelope species in the world.
These herbivorous and nocturnal ungulates (mammals with hooves) are easy to recognize by the deep brown color of their coats with 10–15 vertical white-yellow stripes on their sides to help camouflage better. Both sexes have spiraled horns and very long tails (18-26 in).
These African natives include two subspecies: the western or lowland bongo, (T. e. eurycerus) and the eastern or mountain bongo (T. e. isaaci). Eastern bongos have darker colors than western bongos.
The pigmentation in their coats rubs off easily and some anecdotal reports claim that rain running off a bongo will be brown-reddish. Thanks to the superstition saying that if you eat or touch a bongo, you will have an epileptic seizure, they aren’t hunted too much in their native range.
Often found in small groups or alone, these brown antelopes are browsers and eat leaves, twigs, flowers, and thistles. They will also eat wood burned by the lightning storm to get salt and minerals.
To walk through dense forests, bongos need to tilt their heads up and rest horns flat on their backs. Because of this frequent head movement, older bongos will have bald spots on their backs from horns rubbing away the fur.
7. Lesser Kudu
- Scientific Name: Tragelaphus imberbis
Lesser kudus are another striped antelope species found in eastern Africa.
These medium-sized animals are reddish-brown (females and young) or grayish-yellow (males) and can be seen in dry, densely thicketed scrub and woodlands.
Lesser kudus have one long white stripe on their backs and 11-14 white stripes that branch to the sides. Males are a lot bigger than females and have very long (20-28 in) spiraled horns.
These striking animals mostly feed at dusk and dawn, consuming leaves, shrubs, twigs, and grasses. Males are usually solitary or in small bachelor groups with females forming groups of two or three.
Thanks to large ears and keen hearing, lesser kudus can spot predators like leopards, lions, hyenas, and eagles. Some wildlife experts estimate their population to be under 120,000 animals – IUCN lists them as Near Threatened species.
8. African Hoopoe
- Scientific Name: Upupa africana
These unique-looking birds are common in southern parts of Africa. African hoopoes are unmistakable with their brown plumage, long, thin, and downcurved bills, large crests, and black and white stripes on their wings and tails.
Common around open and brushy areas, these birds will also visit parks and gardens, and probe the leaves on the ground with their bills to find food. African hoopoes feed on insects, worms, frogs, small snakes, lizards, and some berries.
They can be spotted in the air by their undulating and erratic flights. African hoopoes are monogamous birds.
9. Cape House Snake
- Scientific Name: Boaedon capensis
Cape house snakes, also known as brown house snakes, are non-venomous species found in Botswana, South Africa, Mozambique, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
Their color can vary from black and brown to olive green; Cape house snakes have strong, thick, and bold stripes going from the eye to the back of the head. They also have lateral creamy stripes that run along either side of the spine.
Females are almost 2 times longer than males. Nocturnal species, they feed on rodents and lizards that gather around human habitats, as their name suggests.
10. Demanson’s Cichlid
- Scientific Name: Pseudotropheus demasoni
These striped fish were named after Laif DeMason a popular fishkeeper who imported these cichlids to the West.
Demasoni’s cichlids are endemic to Lake Malawi in Tanzania and can grow up to 3.9 inches long. Males and females are dark blue and have vertical black and light blue stripes on their sides.
Ad Konings first discovered these cichlids and despite IUCN listing them as Vulnerable species, they are commonly found in the aquarium trade in the USA or Europe.
This concludes our list of African animals with stripes. Hopefully next time you see these, you will recognize any of them with ease!