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Animals That Start With Z With Pictures and Facts

The letter Z is one of the most rarely used in today’s language. Similarly, the list of animals that start with z is full of lesser-known creatures apart from the better-known zebra, which shares its name with sharks and fishes alongside the equine.

If they have another thing in common, it's demonstrating the incredible biodiversity in the animal kingdom. Below, we have curated a list of animals that start with z and some interesting facts about them. 

17 Animals that start with z

1. Zebra shark

Zebra Shark
Zebra shark, an odd name for a spotted shark, but the young have stripes. Photo: iStock

Scientific name: Stegostoma tigrinum
Conservation status: Endangered 
Fun fact:  zebra sharks prefer marine waters, but they also live in freshwater and brackish habitats

First on our list of animals that start with z is the zebra shark. The zebra shark is a solitary and nocturnal type of shark that prefers to spend the day lying motionless on the seafloor. Zebra sharks have round bodies, flattened heads, and snouts. They also have five ridges on their body. Some of these ridges lead up to their dorsal midline and fins. 

A young zebra shark has yellow lines, which change to brown spots as they mature. Zebra sharks grow to a maximum length of 12 feet. You will find the zebra shark in the tropical waters of South Africa, the Persian Gulf, India, Southeast Asia, Taiwan, Japan, and Northern Australia, with an average ocean depth of 203 feet. 

The zebra shark is a strong and fast swimmer. It does not attack humans unless a diver provokes it. Instead, humans are its predators. IUCN lists zebra sharks as endangered because humans hunt them for their meat, fin, and liver oil.

2. Zebra finches

Zebra finches
Photo Credit: PxHere (public domain)

Scientific name: Taeniopygia castanotis
Conservation status: Least Concern
Fun fact: they have black and white stripes on their chests, similar to zebra stripes 

Animals that start with z include the zebra finch, a small, delightful songbird. There are two species of zebra finches, the Sunda zebra finch and the Australian zebra finch. These birds used to be a single species until the International Community of Ornithology divided them into two separate species.

The Australian zebra finch is Australia's most studied bird. It can live up to 5 years in the wild and up to 9 -12 years in captivity. Its survival depends on its surrounding environment. It prefers arid areas, grasslands, and cultivated areas like rice fields.  

The zebra finch is famous for its vocal capabilities. They make a series of loud beeps, which turns into a rhythmic sequence. Only the male finch can sing. The young finch bird learns their father’s song and adds variations to it as they mature7, which they learn from their surrounding environment. You might also like to read up on other interesting bird facts for more from our feathered friends. 

3. Zonkey 

Photo: iStock

Scientific name: E. "zebra" × E. "equine"
Conservation status: unknown
Fun fact: these hybrid rarities are often sterile 

Zonkey, also known as zebriod, is a hybrid animal. It results from cross-breeding a zebra and a donkey2. It is rare to successfully breed a donkey and a zebra because both animals have different amounts of chromosomes. A donkey has 62 chromosomes, while a zebra has 32 - 46. The difference in the number of chromosomes leads to infertility in the hybrid offspring. 

A zebroid looks like its donkey parents, but it has the black stripes of a zebra. But, unlike zebras, zonkeys do not have black lines all over their bodies. Instead, they have stripes on their legs, neck, or other parts of their bodies. Also, a zonkey gets its body color from its female donkey parent. So, they can be brown, tan, or grey. 

4. Zebra duiker

Zebra duiker
Photo: Public Domain

Scientific name: Cephalophus zebra
Conservation status: Vulnerable
Fun fact: female zebra duiker can only give birth to one calf and can mate ten days after giving birth

Next up, we have the zebra duiker on our list of animals beginning with the letter z. The zebra duiker is a small antelope endemic to Liberia, Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone, and Guinea, which prefers to live in lowland rainforests. You can identify zebra duikers by their goldish or red-brown body. The name zebra duiker results from the black stripes they have on their body, similar to a zebra's stripes.

Adult zebra duikers are 90 cm long, 45 cm tall, and weigh up to 20kg. They are often solitary animals until they mate and raise offspring.

5. Zebra mussels

Zebra mussels
Photo: iStock

Scientific name: Dreissena polymorpha
Conservation status: Least concern 
Fun fact: female zebra mussels can lay up to 40,000 eggs per reproductive cycle 

The first discovery of the zebra mussel was in the western basin of Lake Erie, Ontario, Canada, from April to November 19866. Zebra mussels are a freshwater invasive species, and similar to some of the other animals that start with z, they got their name from the striped patterns on their shell.

They are a small species, growing up to 2 inches long. Zebra mussels feed by straining suspended matter and food particles from water. So, they filter up to one liter of water in a day. Their natural habitat is attached to rocks, wood, plants, pipes, swim rafts, native mussels, and other hard underwater surfaces.

6. Zorse

Photo: iStock

Scientific name: E. "zebra" × E. "equine"
Conservation status: unknown
Fun fact: a zorse is apparently three times stronger than a horse 

The zorse, also known as zebrula or zemule, is similar to the zonkey. A zorse is an outcome of cross-breeding a female horse and male zebra. The physical characteristics of a zorse include the stripe patterns from their zebra parent on colored areas of their coat. 

7. Zebra pleco

Zebra pleco
Photo Credit: Peaceinpianos (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Scientific name: Hypancistrus zebra
Conservation status: critically endangered 
Fun fact: male pleco bites the female pleco to keep her in a cave during their reproduction cycle

The zebra pleco, another animal that starts with the letter z and the word zebra, is a freshwater catfish endemic to the Xingu River in Brazil. Sadly, the animal is an endangered species at risk of extinction due to habitat destruction and human hunting. Humans traffick this zebra fish for sale as aquarium fish1.

Scientists named the catfish zebra pleco because it is similar to a zebra’s black and white stripes. An adult male pleco has a broader head and longer odontodes than its female counterpart. The male pleco traps his mate in a cave for six days until she lays eggs. Then, he doesn’t allow her to leave the shelter until he fertilizes the eggs. Once the eggs are fertilized, he guards them until they hatch. 

8. Zebra seahorse

(no photo available)

Scientific name: Hippocampus zebra
Conservation status: unknown
Fun fact: female seahorses do not lay eggs. 

The zebra seahorse is native to Northern Australia. It prefers to live in coral reefs and underwater areas with muddy and sandy bottoms. The zebra seahorse is a species that lays eggs. Interestingly, the male seahorse carries the eggs in his brood pouch. 

9. Zenaida dove

Zenaida dove
Photo Credit: gailhampshire (CC BY 2.0)

Scientific name: Zenaida aurita
Conservation status: Least concern
Fun fact: males are often larger than their female counterparts 

Another of the animals beginning with z is the Zenaida dove. The Zenaida dove, also known as the turtle dove, is a 12-inch-long bird that feeds on grains, seeds, and insects. You can find this bird in Cuba, Grand Bahama, the Cayman Islands, the Virgin Islands, Grenada, and Barbados. The Zenaida dove displays sexual dimorphism5. In Anguilla, they love this feathered beauty so much that they made it the country's national bird.

Zenaida dove is similar to the eared and mourning doves, except that it doesn't have a mourning dove's tail. Instead, it has a rounded tail, white-tipped wings, and a brown body. In addition, adult males often have a dash of pink plumage on their necks.

10. Zone-tailed pigeon

Zone-tailed pigeon
Picture: John Gerrard Keulemans (public domain)

Scientific name: Ducula mindorensis
Conservation status: Endangered 
Fun fact: zone-tailed pigeon is a rare bird with very little information 

The zone-tailed pigeon, also known as Mindoro imperial pigeon, is the largest in the Philippines. It can grow up to 50cm long. Its wings reach a length of 24cm, and its long tail is up to 17cm long. You will recognize the zone-tailed pigeon by its pinkish-grey forehead and throat area. Furthermore, its head, neck, and underbelly are dark blue-grey, while its wings have a bronze shade of red and green. 

Sadly, the Mindoro imperial pigeons are on the verge of extinction due to deforestation8, cultivation, and logging. IUCN recorded its population to be a maximum of 1700 pigeons. 

11. Zebra

Photo by Zac Wolff on Unsplash.

Scientific name: Equus quagga
Conservation status:  endangered (imperial zebra, Equus grevyi), near threatened (plains zebra, Equus grevyi), vulnerable (mountain zebra, Equus zebra)
Fun fact: a male zebra can determine when a female zebra is ready to mate through the flehmen response

Zebras, horses, and asses are from the same family, Equidae. The three species of zebras are native to eastern and southern Africa. They are mountain zebra, imperial zebra, and plains zebra. Zebras are easily recognizable with their various patterns of black and white stripes.  The plains zebra can travel as long as 500m during the dry season4. They have a record of being the longest-traveling mammal in Africa. Also, they depend heavily on water and prefer living in moist areas.

Imperial zebras, found in Kenya, Somalia, and Ethiopia, can survive without water for a week because their bodies can hold water better than cattle. A distinguishable characteristic of imperial zebras is their large ears. In addition, mountain zebras prefer elevated surfaces, and you can find them grazing in places up to 6,600ft high. 

Zebras' diet consists of grasses, sedges, barks, fruits, leaves, and roots.  A male zebra is a stallion, while a female zebra is a mare. Socially, male zebras can form a bachelor group until they transition to a family group.

Read more: Zebra Facts.

12. Zorilla

Photo Credit: Colorado State University Libraries (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Scientific name: Ictonyx striatus
Conservation status: Least concern 
Fun fact: striped polecats are born blind, deaf, and naked

Zorrilla is next on our list of animals, beginning with z. A zorilla, commonly known as a striped polecat, is 28 inches long and 6 inches tall. This species experiences sexual dimorphism, and the male striped pole cat is bigger than its female counterpart. The animal’s physical attributes include a black underside, light stripes running from its cheeks down to its tail, and black legs.

The striped polecat prefers to live in an arid environment. So, you’re more likely to find it in Central, Southern, and sub-Saharan Africa. Its diet consists of small rodents, snakes, birds, amphibians, and insects. It tends to feed frequently because of its small stomach. Furthermore, it is a nocturnal animal, mostly hunting at night. 

They are not social animals. Zorilla only relates with other members of its species during mating seasons. Female striped polecats give birth to five young ones per litter. Unsurprisingly, striped polecats are territorial and aggressive and release anal spray as a form of defense mechanism against predators3. The anal spray blinds and irritates their predator’s mucous membranes.

13. Zebu (cattle)

Photo Credit: PxHere (Public Domain)

Scientific name: Bos indicus
Conservation status: Domesticated 
Fun fact: zebu cattle are not susceptible to diseases and parasites

Zebu is a domesticated cattle breed with a shoulder hump, excess skin, and floppy ears. There are 75 breeds of this domesticated cattle spread evenly between African and Indian zebu cattle. Some of these breeds are Gry, Lohani, Ongole, Southern Yellow, Butana and Kenana, Indo-Brazilian, Brahman, and Nelore.

Zebu cattle can survive in hot environments due to their resistance to drought and high tolerance to heat and sunlight. Reproduction depends on how mature zebus are. At 29 months, they are mature enough to give birth.

However, early childbirth can stress the cattle, causing them to have a shorter lifespan. In addition, male calves have a longer carrying time, which puts more strain on the mother. Mother cattle wean their calves after two weeks and groom them for up to five years.

14. Zorro

Photo Credit: Kevin Jones (CC BY 2.0)

Scientific name: Lycalopex griseus
Conservation status: Least concern 
Fun fact: they are omnivores

Zorro is the Spanish name for the South American fox. It is a genus of the subfamily Caninae. The South American fox isn’t a fox. Instead, it is related to wolves and jackals. The six species of zorro are:

  • Andean fox
  • Darwin’s fox
  • South American gray fox
  • Pampas fox
  • Hoary fox
  • Sechuran fox

We will focus on the South American gray fox species known as the gray zorro. The gray zorro is endemic to the southern area of South America, but you will mostly find the South American gray fox in Argentina and Chile. 

It has a maximum weight of 5kg, is 43 inches long, and has a long tail measuring 17 inches. The grey zorro’s head is reddish-brown with white specks. Its other physical attributes include large ears, grey undersides, brindled pelage, and a black spot on the chin. It also has a dark stripe on its tail. 

15. Zigzag salamander

Zigzag salamander
Photo Credit: Marshal Hedin (CC BY 2.0)

Scientific name: Plethodon angusticlavius, Plethodon dorsalis
Conservation status: Least concern
Fun fact: they breed during the fall, and spring seasons

Plethodon houses 52 species of salamanders, including Ozark and northern zig-zag salamanders. They are endemic to Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Southern Missouri, Northern Arkansas, Illinois, and Kentucky. Both salamanders prefer rocky areas, temperate forests, caves, and freshwater springs.

16. Zig-zag eel

Zig-zag eel
Photo: iStock

Scientific name: Mastacembelus armatus
Conservation status: Least concern 
Fun fact: zig zag eel isn't a true eel

Zig Zag eel, also known as marbled spiny eel or tire-track eel, is endemic to the waters of India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Vietnam, Bangladesh, and other regions in Southeast Asia. The zig-zag eel is a regular food and aquarium fish in Southeast Asia. It has a long physical structure, similar to a snake. 

Colored a mix of dark and silver beige, its body is dark brown, while its belly is light brown. It can grow up to 36 inches long. However, it only reaches the maximum length of 20 inches in captivity. The marbled spiny eel is a nocturnal fish that prefers lowland wetlands, highland streams, coastal marshes, and sandy and rocky river beds. 

17. Zebrafish

Photo: iStock

Scientific name: Danio rerio
Conservation status: Least concern
Fun fact: they live up to five years under favorable conditions

Finally, on our list of animals beginning with z is zebrafish. The zebrafish is a freshwater fish and a popular aquarium fish. It is endemic to the freshwaters of India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, and Bangladesh. Its physical attributes resemble a zebra’s with its black and white stripes. Also, it is spindle-shaped and laterally compressed. A zebrafish can grow up to 2 inches long.

More A-Z Animals:


Leandro Melo de Sousa, Oliver Lucanus, J. Pablo Arroyo-Mora, Margaret Kalacska, Conservation and trade of the endangered Hypancistrus zebra (Siluriformes, Loricariidae), one of the most trafficked Brazilian fish, Global Ecology and Conservation, Volume 27, 2021, e01570, ISSN 2351-9894


Schubert, Mikkel & Mashkour, Marjan & Gaunitz, Charleen & Fages, Antoine & Seguin-Orlando, Andaine & Sheikhi, Shiva & Alfarhan, Ahmed & Alquraishi, Saleh & AL-Rasheid, Khaled & Chuang, Richard & Ermini, Luca & Gamba, Cristina & Weinstock, Jaco & Onar, Vedat & Orlando, Ludovic. (2017). Zonkey: A simple, accurate and sensitive pipeline to genetically identify equine F1-hybrids in archaeological assemblages. Journal of Archaeological Science. 72. 147-157. 10.1016/j.jas.2016.12.005.


Wheeler, J. W., Nyalley, L., Davis, D. M., & Weldon, P. J. (1997). Additional sulfur compounds from the anal glands of the striped polecat, Ictonyx striatus (Mustelidae, Mammalia)Zeitschrift für Naturforschung C52(3-4), 283-286.


Richard Estes, (1991). The Behavior Guide to African Mammals: Including Hoofed Mammals, Carnivores, Primates.


Quinard, A., & Cézilly, F. (2012). Sex roles during conspecific territorial defence in the Zenaida dove, Zenaida auritaAnimal Behaviour83(1), 47-54.


James T. Carlton, The Zebra Mussel Dreissena polymorpha Found in North America in 1986 and 1987, Journal of Great Lakes Research, Volume 34, Issue 4, 2008, Pages 770-773, ISSN 0380-1330,


Heston JB, White SA. Behavior-linked FoxP2 regulation enables zebra finch vocal learning. J Neurosci. 2015 Feb 18;35(7):2885-94. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3715-14.2015. PMID: 25698728; PMCID: PMC4331621.


Dutson, G., Evans, T., Brooks, T., Asane, D., Timmins, R., & Toledo, A. (1992). Conservation status of birds on Mindoro, PhilippinesBird Conservation International, 2(4), 303-325. doi:10.1017/S0959270900002513

By Jennifer Okafor, BSc.

Jen’s a passionate environmentalist and sustainability expert. With a science degree from Babcock University Jen loves applying her research skills to craft editorial that connects with our global changemaker and readership audiences centered around topics including zero waste, sustainability, climate change, and biodiversity.

Elsewhere Jen’s interests include the role that future technology and data have in helping us solve some of the planet’s biggest challenges.

Photo by Hendrik Cornelissen on Unsplash
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