RIO GRANDE VALLEY, Texas – You just never know what may be peering out from behind mesquite thickets in the sprawling ranchland north of Raymondville once known as the Wild Horse Desert.
The million plus acres of ranch country in deep South Texas was historically a vast prairie inhabited by wild mustangs and scattered water sources.
Today, the legendary ranches such as the King, Kenedy and Yturria are home to not only horses and cattle but also a surprising variety of exotics such as nilgai antelope and yes-even zebras.
The striped grazers have adapted well to the lush grasslands and mesquite brush while not having to contend with predation by lions, cheetahs or leopards.
A swift and powerful kick from the formidable zebra would quickly dissuade any bobcat or coyote that ventured close.
Admiring these strikingly beautiful zebras of the Wild Horse Desert one begins to ponder the question…why exactly do zebras have stripes?
Early speculation was that the stripes somehow helped disguise zebras from predators particularly when fleeing creating a “motion dazzle” that would perhaps make it more difficult for a predator to focus on just one prey.
There is also an hypothesis that the stripes deter biting flies, and it has been demonstrated that flies are less likely to land on black and white striped surfaces as the stripes apparently polarize light in such a way that it discourages insects form alighting.
There is also a theory that the stripes help regulate the zebras’ body temperature.
Apparently, the black and white stripes create convection currents when air passes over them as air currents move faster over the heat-absorbing black hairs than the white ones.
Perhaps, it is a combination of all of these theories as to how the zebra got its stripes, but one thing is for sure…the early vaqueros of the Wild Horse Desert could never have imagined these uniquely striped “horses” roaming the vast grasslands of southernmost Texas.