In 2004, C.P. Groves and C.H. Bell investigated the taxonomy of the zebras (genus Equus, subgenus Hippotigris). They concluded that the Cape Mountain Zebra (Equus zebra zebra) and Hartmann's Mountain Zebra (Equus zebra hartmannea) are distinct, and suggested that the two would be better classified as separate species, Equus zebra and Equus hartmannae.However, in a comprehensive genetic study which included 295 mountain zebra specimens, Moodley and Harley (2005) found no genetic evidence to regard the two Mountain zebra taxa as anything more than different populations of a single species. They concluded that the Cape Mountain Zebra and Hartmann's Mountain Zebra should remain as subspecies.The third edition of Mammal Species of the World (2005) lists the Mountain zebra as a single species (Equus zebra) with two subspecies.
Like all zebras, it is boldly striped in black and white and no two individuals look exactly alike. The stripe can be black and white or dark brown and white. Their stripes cover their whole bodies except for their bellies. The Mountain zebra also has a dewlap.Adult mountain zebras have a body length of 2.2m (7.2ft). Shoulder height ranges from 1-1.4 m (3-4 ft). They typically weigh between 240 and 372 kg. (528 to 818.4 lbs). Groves and Bell found that the Cape mountain zebra exhibits sexual dimorphism, with larger females than males, while the Hartmann's mountain zebra does not. The black stripes of Hartmann's mountain zebra are thin with much wider white interspaces, while this is the opposite in Cape mountain zebra.
Mountain zebras live in dry, stony, mountainous and hilly habitats. They prefer slopes and plateaus and can be found as high as 2,000 meters above sea level, although they do migrate lower in the winter season. Their diet consists of tufted grass, bark, leaves, buds, fruit and roots. They often dig for ground water.The Cape mountain zebra and the Hartmann's mountain zebra are now allopatric, meaning that their present ranges are nonoverlapping. They are therefore unable to crossbreed. This is a result of their extermination by hunting in the Northern Cape Province of South Africa. Historically Mountain zebras could be found across the entire length of the mountainous escarpment that runs along the west coast of southern Africa as well as in the fold mountain region in southern South Africa.
The Mountain zebras form small family groups consisting of a single stallion, one, two, or several mares, and their recent offspring. Bachelor males live in separate groups and attempt to abduct young mares and are opposed by the stallion. Mountain zebra groups do not aggregate into herds like Plains zebras. Mares may give birth to one foal every twelve months. Like horses, zebras are able to stand, walk and suckle shortly after they're born. The mare nurses the foal for up to a year, and the young zebra then leave to join bachelor groups or harems.
The species is listed as Vulnerable. The Cape Mountain zebra was hunted to near extinction with less than 100 individuals by the 1930s. However the population has increased to about over 2700 in the wild due to conservation efforts. Both Mountain zebra subspecies are currently protected in national parks but are still threatened. There is a European zoo's Endangered Species Programme for this zebra as well as co-operative management of zoo populations worldwide.