Do Zebras Have Natural Fly Protection?

Or, “why it’s OK to buy EVERYTHING in zebra print.”

[Top image: Renata Wilisowska ]

Many parts of the Northern Hemisphere are just finally starting to see the first signs of spring…so, just to rain on your parade a little bit, I’d like to remind you that means flies are coming. Soon.


It’s  never too early to start thinking about how you’ll protect your horse from evil, evil horseflies, and two recent studies are pointing to the effectiveness of an unconventional method: stripes.

The first experiment in 2012 set up horse statues that were painted with different patterns and colors (such as black, bay, leopard Appaloosa and zebra-striped) on a horsefly-infested farm near Budapest. Each statue was coated in glue to trap flies, and researchers found that the striped pattern attracted the fewest flies. This could be due to how the pattern reflects light, making it difficult for flies to land. Another study, just published in Nature Communications this April,  examined why zebra stripes evolved in the first place, and ruled out all possible reasons but one: protection from biting flies.

“I was amazed by our results,” said lead author Tim Caro, a UC Davis professor of wildlife biology. “Again and again, there was greater striping on areas of the body in those parts of the world where there was more annoyance from biting flies.”

However, he did note that since the study relied on statistical models, more research is needed on zebras in the wild to confirm the hypothesis.

In the meantime, you can do a little experiment yourself. Zebra print has always been popular (seriously, who doesn’t love putting crazy prints on their horse?) but now you can literally COVER your entire horse with a zebra fly sheet to see if it makes a difference (and to make him look totally ridiculous, which is always fun).



And if you hate flies just as much as your horse, don’t worry. You can get a zebra suit too.

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Go Riding (in your matching zebra suits. Seriously, take a picture if you do.)

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