STILLNESS IN A MYRIAD OF STRIPES
Join us for another episode of 'Behind the Shot' with award-winning photographers and presenters of Animal Planet's 'Big Cat Tales,' Jonathan & Angela Scott.
In today's episode, Jonathan tells the story behind 'Stillness in a Myriad of Stripes,' the newest addition to the Limited Edition collection, which beautifully showcases the peacefulness and elegance of a zebra amidst the herd in the Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya.
There is something infinitely calming and soothing to this image taken by Angie. It reminds us of the title of Professor Robert Sapalsky's book Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers. Zebras live in the moment, if they detect danger they become alert and watchful. But once the danger has passed they go back to living - fully "present" to the here and now - rather than worrying about what might happen in the future.
So when you look at Angie's image "Stillness in a Myriad of Stripes", think "zebra", merging your life force with all those dazzling stripes to sooth away your worries. With people's love and affinity for horses and our long association with them it is hardly surprising that zebras attract similar sentiments for their dazzling grace and beauty. They enthrall us. They are a creature of the imagination. Their elegant stripes are used by artists for body paintings, dress design, furniture and architecture. They are one of the most photogenic of all animals, a staple of children's stories, among the last animals in the dictionary and alphabet books.
Zebras, horses and asses are closely related and belong to the same group or genus. People have bred zebras with horses and donkeys: known as zebroids; a zorse is a cross between a zebra and a horse; a zonkey between a zebra and a donkey and a zoni between a zebra and a pony. Zebroids are usually infertile and may suffer from dwarfism. The zebra's stripes create a unique pattern that marks out one from another, along with their braying, bark-like call. They have been trained and tamed throughout history, though attempts to domesticate them have proved largely unsuccessful. There are three species of zebras: the Grévy's zebra (Equus grevyi), plains zebra (E. quagga), and the mountain zebra (E. zebra).
Nobody is sure why zebras have stripes though one theory is that it is a form of protection from biting flies, and according to the research of Alison Cobb and her zoologist husband, Dr Stephen Cobb it is a means of temperature control. They note that "zebras have an unexpected ability to raise the hair on their black stripes (like velvet) while the white ones remain flat." The raising of black hairs during the heat of the day, when the stripes are at different temperatures, assists with the transfer of heat from the skin to the hair surface and conversely, when the stripes are at the same temperature in the early morning, and there is no air movement, the raised black hairs will help trap air to reduce heat loss at that time. Zebras are depicted in rock art in Southern Africa dating from 28,000 to 20,000 years ago.
They are recorded as having pulled chariots during gladiator games in Rome starting in the reign of Caracalla (198 to 217 AD). In the late 19th century, the zoologist Walter Rothschild drove a carriage drawn by zebras to Buckingham Palace to demonstrate the tame character of zebras to the public. However, he did not ride on them as he realized that they were too small and aggressive. "How the zebra got its stripes" has been the subject of folk tales for millenia. The San people of the Kalahari associated zebra stripes with water, rain and lighting because of its dazzling pattern, and water spirits were conceived of having zebra stripes. For the Shona people of Southern Africa, the zebra is a totem animal and is praised in a poem as an "iridescent and glittering creature". Its stripes have symbolised the joining of male and female and at the ruined city of Great Zimbabwe, zebra stripes decorate what is believed to be a domba, a premarital school meant to initiate girls into adulthood. For people of the African diaspora, the zebra represented the politics of race and identity, being both black and white.
What better cause for celebration than to view the zebra as a unifying life form for people of all cultures.