How the Zebra Earned his Stripes

Once upon a time a large, fierce baboon moved onto the banks of a mighty African river. After building his home he denied all animals access to the river water, declaring it was his and his alone.


Dube, a brave young zebra stallion, decided this attitude was unfair, and challenged Baboon to a fight. In those days zebras were pure white, just like unicorns.

As a fearsome veteran of many battles, Baboon happily accepted the challenge. With such experience gained from fighting he knew the odds were stacked against Dube.

"The loser of the fight will be banished forever, and will live in the barren kopje on the other side of the river,” Baboon declared. “We shall meet here at my home tomorrow morning.”

The fight was long and terrible, and is still spoken about today. Dube used his sharp hooves and teeth to battle Baboon’s dreadful long fangs and legendary dexterity. After several hours Baboon gained the upper hand, and threw Dube into the fire burning outside his hut. As Dube struggled to his hooves the flames burned over his wonderful white coat. In the midst of his agony Dube managed to find the strength to escape, and he kicked Baboon hard.

Caught unawares by Dube’s strength, Baboon flew over the river into the rocks on the very same kopje he’d declared would be the home of the loser of this battle.Dube’s kick was so strong the force with which Baboon hit the rocks resulted in a bald patch on his behind. To this day his hair has never grown back.

Like Baboon, brave Dube bears the scars of their epic battle. The burns from Baboon’s fire left black stripes all over his snow-white coat. It was a small price to pay, for from that day all animals were able to access the water in the river.

Today, all zebras wear their stripes with pride, living freely on the open plains with unlimited access to the river. For their selfishness and pride baboons are banished to stony kopjes…


Note: this is just one of several African stories about how the zebra got his stripes. We’ll be sharing the other myths in future posts.

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