Zebra Mice

Wild Zebra Mice

Marks of identification
Life in the Wild

ZEBRA MOUSE Lemniscomys

Other names: Panya (Kisvahili), Mende (Luganda), Olurende (Lugisu), Livende (Luhya), Nyarubere (Lutoro, Lubwizi), Olutera (Lukonjo), Kadzora (Kipokomo), Kimuarees (Sebei), Eze (Kuamba), Rat ray? (Frensh), Strimmig / randfl?ckad gr?smus (Swedish), Seeprahiiri (Finnish).


CLASS: Mammalia (mammals)
ORDER: Rodentia (rodents)
SUB-ORDER: Myomorpha
FAMILY: Muridae (rat-like rodents)
SUB-FAMILY: Murinae (proper mice and rats)
GENERA: Lemniscomys (zebra mice)
SPECIES: Lemniscomys barbarus, Lemniscomys striatus, Lemniscomys macculus, and Lemniscomys griselda.
SUB-SPECIES: L. barbarus zebra, L. barbarus fasciatus, L. barbarus albolineatus, L. barbarus convicutus, L. barbarus manteufli, L. babrarus spekei, L. striatus massaicus, L. striatus ardens, L. macculus macculus, L. griselda maculosus, L. griselda linulus, L. griselda rosalia, L. griselda dorsalis, L. griselda maculosus mearnsi.


Species are divided by colouring and markings into four groups as follows:

Into plain coloured species are classed Lemniscomys griselda with sub-species L. g. maculosus, L. g. rosalia, L. g. dorsalis, L. g. linulus, L. g. mearnsi.

Into larger spotted species belong Lemniscomys striatus with sub-species L. s. massaicus, L. s ardens.

Smaller spotted species consist of Lemniscomys macculus with sub-species L. m. macculus.

Small striped species are Lemniscomys barbarus with sub-species, which are L. b. zebra, L. b. fasciatus, L. b. albolineatus, L. b. convictus, L. b. manteufli, and L. b. spekei.


The lengths vary according to the species.

Lemniscomys griselda's and Lemniscomys striatus' average sizes: Head and body together 120 (98-140) mm, tail 120 (102-155) mm, hind leg 23-32 mm, skull 27-21 mm and weight 50 (20-86) g.

Lemniscomys macculus: Head and body together 100 (95-122) mm, tail 100 (94-124) mm, hind leg 20-23 mm, skull 23-27 mm and weight 18-35 g.

Lemniscomys barbarus: Head and body together 105 (90-118) mm, tail 107 (95-133) mm, hind leg 22-36 mm, skull 23-27 mm and weight 30 (23-41) g. Information in the parentheses correspond totally those of Lemniscomys barbarus zebra, which may prove that it is of the average size of Lemniscomys barbarus -species.

Other Marks of Identification

Zebra mice have long and blunt-nosed head. The head attaches to the body without a distinctive neck. The tail is very long and covered with transparent short hair. The animal is of long and lean type. Feet are small and delicate. Ears are round and hairy; their natural position is flat against the neck. Eyes are plum seed shaped and black.

The colouring differs a bit from one species to another. Nevertheless, here are the most common marks of identification:

Back: according to the species, the back is stripy with clear-cut or brindled markings. Some species have more distinct stripes than others do and often they are framed with white. Stripes are usually dark brown. There is a black stripe running along the spine from the tail tip to the forehead. Basic colour is usually light brown.

Head: Solid coloured dark brown, with some species it may have a stripy appearance. Around the eyes there is a creamy-coloured circle. Nose light. Whiskers short and colourless.

Belly and feet: white, along the demarcation line between top and belly colour there is a narrow line of brazen colour. Some species have brass -coloured feet, but usually they are of normal white colouring. The belly colour is barely visible when the animal is viewed from the side.

The tail is either totally dark or light; some species have bi-coloured tail; lighter at the underside. The stripy colouring is thought to distract the possible enemies of the zebra mice; the enemy cannot distinguish the outlines of the mouse because of the stripes. Quite cool defence, don't you think!


Zebra mice live around the Sahara from Eastern Africa. Plain coloured species live in the areas of Southeast Kenya and Tanzania, while larger spotted species populate Eastern Africa. Smaller spotted species live in Uganda Southwest of Tanzania and Western Kenya. Small striped species have spread to Northern Uganda, Middle and Southeast Kenya, Tanzania and on the banks of Lake Victoria.

Zebra mice live on dry plains and brushwood and on grass and bush savannah and semi-deserts.


There are more negative than positive material found on the social habits of this mouse. Many sources claim that the spiny mouse is a hermit (?!!). Density of population is relatively high, some 12 animals per hectare. Especially when the conditions are good, they reproduce in excess. As shelter, zebra mice prefer underground burrows or abandoned termite nests. All species make a roundish nest, in which they carry shredded hay. Sometimes, especially during the autumn, they use leaves to build nests of.

Zebra mice are very timid creatures. They run and climb in the bushes or small trees. Some species thrive on the mountainous areas in the middle of Africa and there have been sightings of zebra mice on 3 km high.

Zebra mice move around during the day and nighttime as well and they go out for short food gathering trips in the morning and evening. When the sun comes up, they "come to life", although they do spend the hottest time of the day in shelter.

In the wild this small rodent has many enemies, like birds of prey, snakes and predators.


The zebra mouse is omnivorous and eats green plants, seeds, moist roots, fruit, leaves and sometimes also insects and other invertebrates. It is a common visitor on crop fields during harvesting and can even become quite a pest.


Time of reproduction coincides with the rain season. The females have heat cycle of 6 days, the gestation period is 28 days and one couple can produce 21 young in 4 litters and less than 4 months. The common size of a litter is 4 or 5 young, but there have also been sightings of litters with over 12 babies.

Most species construct a nest for the babies in the bushes, slightly above the ground.

Newly born baby weighs 3 grams and it has very thin coat on with the stripes already visible. The eyes open at the age of a week. The animal develops until the age of 5 months, when it should reach its adult weight. They get sexually mature at the age of 2 months, although females do not give birth before they turn a year.

Text by: Lotta Ahlfors & Kaisa Kattilakoski with help from Petri Airasvirta.