I’m sitting here watching a National Geographic documentary on North American wildlife. I had my fingers poised over the keyboard ready to write about animal facts or maybe a lesson in geography-appropriate animal names for kids. Then Bella (one of my daughters) asked me a question: What animals start with the letter Z? This is when I was stumped. It took me over an hour to come up with five animals. That’s when I realized I needed to do some research and make this blog post.
You say Zebra? I say Zebu. You say Zebra Finch? I say Zebra Shark. You say Zebrafish? I say Zebras, zebras, everywhere. But there are more than 20 animals that start with the letter Z and they each have their own unique qualities that you should know about.
Now, this is something to get excited about! We present to you our list of animals that start with Z.
Scientists consider the zapata wren, also known by its scientific name herminia cerverai, an endangered species.
The bird is native to the Zapata Swamp in western Cuba along the freshwater sawgrass marshes. There are less than 2,000 of these rare small brown birds flying around.
Bird admirers identify the zapata wren by its loud song, alternating between whistled notes and various kinds of percussive clicking and churring.
You can identify the zapata wren by its short, rounded wings, its long, broad rounded tail, and its black-and-yellow bill.
In the U.S., the zebra is most commonly known through visits to local zoos. But this horse-like creature is more common in the 15 African countries where it is native.
The zebra has such a strong association with Africa that the plains zebra appears on Botswana’s coat of arms.
Known for its distinguishing white and black vertical stripes, the zebra also sports a mane of short, spiked hair. In the wild, the zebra can live up to 20 years, and twice that long in captivity.
The zebra’s shorter lifespan in the wild is attributable, in part, to the fact that it is often the prey of lions, cheetahs, and hyenas.
Humans also hunt zebra for meat and their unique skin. This practice more recently posed greater threats to some populations in the southeastern areas of the African continent.
Unlike horses, zebras are not known for their friendly demeanor, which makes them difficult to domesticate.
Zebras travel in groups or a herd, known as a dazzle.
The zebra is also known for cross-breeding with other animals, known as zebroids.
While not as well known as its fellow horse-like ungulate, the zebra duiker shares the familiar striped coloring. The brown and tan deer-like animal features black or dark brown vertical stripes.
The zebra duiker sports one of the most distinctive coats of any mammal. Its coloring includes a light gold or reddish-brown body highlighted by twelve to sixteen black or dark brown stripes.
The zebra duiker is native to the West African rainforests, with larger populations around Liberia. Disruption and destruction of rainforests threaten the zebra duiker’s population.
While also prey for leopards along the West Africa coast, the zebra duiker’s population is estimated at about 15,000.
Male and female zebra duikers breed year-round. Females hide their babies in dense vegetation for the first several weeks after giving birth. They visit the babies several times a day to provide nursing and other nourishment.
The tiny zebra finch is a bird that is native to Australia but also migrates to Puerto Rico and Portugal. This finch earned its name from the distinctive black stripes along with its white breast. It also features a bright orange bill.
Zebra finches are monogamous birds, a fact that made them perfect for German research that focused on love and relationships. The birds are known to mate for life, sharing nests with their partner and caring for offspring together.
The German researchers isolated single zebra finches in a chamber, allowing them to select a partner at will. After the birds paired up, researchers separated them again and then allowed them to pick other mates. They concluded that splitting up paired zebra finches led to tensions, conflict, and lack of bonding with their second mates.
Some U.S. pet stores sell zebra finches, although the birds are not naturally inclined to interact with people. Instead, zebra finches thrive in the company of other finches.
Another popular U.S. pet sold in stores is the zebrafish. The freshwater fish belonging to the minnow family earned its name by the horizontal stripes along its sides.
While more commonly known as an aquarium fish, zebrafish also became popular among scientists studying human diseases.
The fish native to South Asia share 70 percent of the 20,000 genes in the human body. The zebrafish also is transparent and can repair its own heart.
Zebrafish make good scientific specimens because they produce hundreds of offspring and grow at an astonishing rate. Researchers used zebrafish as part of their research into muscular dystrophy, human embryo development, and heart physiology.
The zebra shark belongs to a species known as the carpet shark. It swims in shallow waters along coral reefs and sandy flats throughout the tropical Indo-Pacific regions.
The dark brown shark received its name from the yellowish stripes that mark its body in its early years. But the zebra shark loses those stripes as it matures and develops small block dots along its body. As a result, observers frequently misidentify the zebra shark as a leopard shark.
While not a threat to humans and not considered aggressive, researchers consider man the adult zebra shark’s biggest threat. The zebra shark has few predators other than larger sharks that may occasionally catch one in its jaws.
Markets throughout Indonesia sell zebra sharks as a popular seafood choice. The fish is also favored throughout other areas of Southeast Asia.
The shark’s liver serves as a healthy ingredient in vitamin supplements sold in the region. And the Chinese consider the fins a delicacy.
Zebu is a uniquely humped cattle native to India. Breeders later took the cattle to other areas of the world, including Africa, Brazil, and the U.S. In these areas, breeders used zebu to cross-breed with other cattle, which led to an expanded population of humped bovine.
Considered the world’s oldest domesticated cattle, farmers also used the zebu name to refer to other humped cattle breeds. One such breed is the Brahman, which is a popular cattle common in the U.S.
As this practice became more widespread, the cross-breeds became more difficult to distinguish from the pure bred zebu found in India.
Despite the increase in hybrid cattle, the pure zebu cattle can easily be identified by their characteristic long horns, loose skin, large ears, and hump above the shoulders.
Some countries like Brazil use zebu for their milk and meat. But the people of India consider the cattle sacred and use them mostly for their milk.
Biologists classify the Zenaida Dove as a member of the Columbidae family, the same family that includes various species of doves and pigeons.
Although often confused with the Mourning Dove, the zenaida dove is smaller, with a shorter rounded tail, and darker colors.
The zenaida dove is considered so popular in Anguilla it serves as that country’s national bird. The bird is known as a turtle dove in that country.
While bird watchers might find the zenaida dove on occasion in the Florida Keys, the species is more commonly found in its native Caribbean islands. The zenaida dove is plentiful in Cuba. This would explain how it could be found on occasion in south Florida, about 90 miles from Cuba.
The zenaida dove is a popular target for hunters, but remains abundant among the Caribbean islands.
Zokor are mole-like creatures native to North Asia. The small rodents are known for their long front claws that self-sharpen and their powerful limbs used for digging.
The long, silky fur that covers the zokor helps protect the tiny eyes that are sensitive to light. Zokors have no external ears.
The strong limbs and sharp claws help the zokor burrow and store food. Their sharp teeth help cut through roots that obstruct its path. Zokors use tunnels to transport and store their food, which consists mostly of roots, bulbs, leaves, and shoots.
Observers initially considered zokors to be more closely related to hamsters or moles because of their physical similarities. But researchers later determined they are more closely related to blind mole-rats and root and bamboo rats.
While not to be confused with moles, zokors make up their own subfamily of rodents, more akin to the mouse and the rat.
Scientists consider the zone-tailed pigeon, also known as the Mindoro imperial pigeon, an endangered species. The bird is native to the central Philippines.
The zone-tailed pigeon is closely associated with the island of Mindoro. This is why it is also referred to as the Mindoro imperial pigeon. The zone-tailed pigeon is a member of the bird family that includes doves and pigeons.
The ongoing destruction of areas of rainforests for timber production since the 1980s threatens the zone-tailed pigeon. Native hunters in the region also favor the bird, another threat to its population.
Researchers only recently discovered the extent of the limited population of zone-tailed pigeons. Earlier research that focused on the bird overstated its population.
More recent studies of the zone-tailed pigeon concluded its population is smaller, with numbers now estimated at less than 2,500.
A zonkey is exactly the animal that it sounds like, a cross between a zebra and a donkey. But technically, the zonkey is born from a zebra father and a donkey mother.
The zonkey represents a zebroid, one of the hybrids created by mating a zebra with other animals. The zonkey features the stripes of a zebra, but the large ears and head of a donkey.
Their strength and service to farmers made them a more popular hybrid in the 19th century.
The zonkey is typically bred in captivity. They are less commonly found naturally, although some natural hybrids do occur.
While rare, natural hybrids occur in areas like South Africa where the two animals thrive in close proximity.
The zedonk is another zebroid hybrid featuring a zebra. This zebroid is a hybrid that includes a father that is a donkey and a mother that is a zebra.
The distinguishing characteristics of a zedonk are the stripes on its legs and face. They are also shorter in stature, much like a donkey.
These zebroids are not commonly mated as hybrids, but when they are it is typically in captivity. They are not common in nature because zebras and donkeys are not typically found living in close proximity.
Although the zorilla looks similar to the skunk, it is actually a weasel native to southern Africa.
Zorilla’s many names include the striped polecat, the African polecat, zoril, zorille, Cape polecat, and African skunk.
Scientists have observed that the zorilla is a small, but aggressive mammal that is armed with a number of defenses.
The zorilla’s sharp teeth and claws make it an excellent hunter. It typically pursues rodents, snakes, birds, and other creatures for food. And it must do so often because of its small stomach and its need to feed frequently.
While the weasel is often confused with the skunk, it shares a similar defensive ability. The zorilla can expel an anal spray of irritating liquid at any perceived threat, one of its defenses. The zorilla’s offensive spray burns and can blind victims temporarily.
The zorro is a canine mammal that is native to South America.
While sometimes referred to as a South American gray fox, the zorro actually is closer as a species to wolves and coyotes. It is also referred to as the gray zorro and the chilla.
While not considered an endangered species, the relatively stable population of zorro is considered threatened by ongoing trapping and hunting.
The zorro’s small ears mark its most distinguishable characteristic.
The zorro is also mostly nocturnal, hunting and feeding at night on rodents, rabbits, and birds.
The zorse is another hybrid equine known as a zebroid.
Bred from a male zebra and a female horse, zorse is a product of captivity like most other zebroids. Like other hybrids bred in captivity, the zorse is infertile.
It features more horse characteristics than those of a zebra, with a broader, sturdy body. But it also includes stripes from its zebra parent along the body, neck, and legs. The stripes typically are darker against a tan or brown body.
Zorses became a favorite of breeders seeking a milder, calmer version of the zebra that is easier to domesticate. While a zebra is not inclined to accommodate riders, a horse is, making the hybrid more desirable.
It is not considered as exotic as other zebroids because it offers more practical uses.
The zebra seahorse is a fish that is native to northern Australia.
The fish received its name because of its unique markings of black and white stripes. Those markings provide camouflage against black coral and other colors of aquatic creatures found in the north Australian waters.
Like most other seahorses, this species feeds by sucking small prey such as crustaceans and planktonic zooplankton into its mouth. Its odd features resembling a horse’s head and a fish body lead some to question whether the creature is real.
The zebra seahorse breeds in a unique way.
The male zebra seahorse carries the female’s eggs in a pouch to fertilize them. The male also protects and nourishes the developing embryos in the pouch. Thus, the male caretakes the embryos until they are later born as tiny independent young.
Zebra seahorses use their curled tails to anchor themselves in the water. The tails help secure them safely to similarly colored coral or seaweed, another way they protect themselves.
The zig-zag eel is a long tropical fish known mostly for its popularity as an aquarium pet.
Known as the zig-zag yellow tail eel, the creature native to Southeast Asia is not really an eel. It’s a member of the spiny eel family of freshwater fish.
Despite being only about six inches long, the zig-zag eel is considered a somewhat aggressive fish. It is known for attempting to jump out of the aquarium.
It likes to burrow and bury itself, uprooting aquarium plants and rearranging tank decorations.
Zeta trout are fish native to Montenegro, known as zeta softmouth trout.
The zeta trout differs from other softmouth trout with more brown coloration and a different spawning period. Unlike the spring spawning of other trout, the zeta softmouth spawns in December.
Zeta trout really only live in a limited area of the Zeta River and the Morača River in Montenegro. The fish are considered difficult to find in these areas.
The zeta trout used to be abundant. But intense poaching led to a drastic decline in the population of the fish. Some researchers consider the species endangered. But the fish live in deep pools, able to escape attention from others and difficult to track.
Plans to construct dams along waterways where these fish are found threaten to eliminate the species from its natural habitat in Montenegro.
Zonetail butterfly ray
The zonetail butterfly ray is a species of fish native to India and found in Singapore and Thailand. It is more commonly found in the Eastern Indian Ocean and the Western Central Pacific Ocean.
This fish is considered vulnerable, although populations are found in open seas, shallow areas, and estuarine waters. It poses a threat to humans because it is venomous.
The zamurito is a species of catfish native to South America. Found in the Amazon and Orinoco basins, it has other names that include the Piracatinga and Vulture Catfish.
Fishermen consider zamurito an aggressive fish, reporting that they frequently attack fish caught in their nets as well as those hooked on their lines.
This fish species became a popular aquarium pet despite reports of its aggressive nature. It is favored for its hardy and adaptable nature.
But those aquarium owners considering zamurito as a pet should be aware of certain behavior. The fish favors a larger aquarium and is known to bite and tear off the flesh of other fish.
Zingel zingel is a species of freshwater fish found in fast-flowing streams of southeastern Europe. Most known by the two dorsal fins, the zingel zingel fish travel mostly in large rivers.
The fish is considered harmless to humans.
The zingel zingel spawn in March and April along sandy river bottoms. The female zingel zingel mates with several males. Each female lays thousands of eggs that attach to the grave in the river beds.
The fish, also referred to as zingel, eats aquatic insects, crustaceans, fish eggs, and smaller fish.
The zigzag salamander is a small, dark-colored creature common in southern Tennessee and other areas of the southern U.S. It has a red or orange color in a wavy pattern down its back, which gives it its name.
The zigzag salamander, also known as the northern zigzag salamander, prefers the moist environment of caves, rocky hillsides, and leafy areas.
During the warmer months of the summer, these salamanders retreat from the forests. They prefer the mouths of caves and underground burrows for cooler, moist surroundings.
Females lay three to nine eggs in underground cavities or in cave entrances during the spring and summer. Females remain with the eggs until hatching in the fall.
Zeren, also known as Mongolian gazelle, is an antelope native to central Asia. While a popular hunting target in that part of the world, conservationists do not consider zeren endangered.
The large mammals roam in groups of a few dozen, with some numbering 100 in the winter. The groups of zeren travel frequently in the warmer months, with their distance and direction dependent upon the weather and available food.
The zeren mating season is in the late autumn or winter. The births occur in the summer as groups of females separate from the herd to deliver the offspring. After delivery, they return to the herd.
Conclusion: Animals that Start with Z
Z is the 26th letter of the alphabet and the last in the English alphabet. The Z was derived from a similar-looking ancient Greek letter called Zeta, which is a sixth-form Greek letter.
How amazing is it that there are so many animals that begin with the letter Z?
I was mesmerized by all of the animals that begin with the letter Z. I am sure you’ve learned some cool animal facts and that you’ve gained a new appreciation for all the different creatures we share our planet with.
That brings us to the end of our list, with a total of 23 animals. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about them as much as we enjoyed putting this article together.
If you have any more suggestions for animals that are worth adding to this list, let us know via our contact page.
Thanks for reading this far!