You may have noticed that zebra patterned turnout sheets and blankets have been trending in horse culture for some time. Now manufactures have a more than fashionable excuse to expand their product lines to zebra patterned fly sheets.
In a recent study, biologist Gabor Horvath showed that the zebra pattern can work as a repellant to horse flies. With the cost of fly spray ranging from $40-$100 a gallon, this researcher may have inadvertently found a secondary and less expensive ‚Äúgreen‚Äù alternative to defending your horse against these tiny predators.
Scientists have concluded for years that the zebra evolved stripes to allow the animal to blend in with the tall grasses of the Savannah. However, Horvath and colleagues from Hungary and Sweden wondered if perhaps the zebra truly evolved its stripes for a different reason altogether.
The team traveled to a fly-infested farm in Budapest to conduct their study. Here they presented model horses with different coat patterns; white, dark and zebra stripes. Dr. Susanne Akesson, a colleague and study member, had found in a previous study that horse flies were less attracted to white horses than dark horses. She determined that this was because horse flies are drawn to horizontally polarized light, the reflective characteristics of sunlight bouncing off of water (the fly‚Äôs breeding grounds). Because white does not reflect light, white horses attracted fewer horse flies than the dark horses.
The hypothesis for Horvath‚Äôs study was that the zebra striped model horse would attract an ‚Äúintermittent amount of horse flies‚Äù compared to the light and dark horses. What they found, however, was that the zebra model attracted far fewer horse flies then either of the other model horses.
In studying the reflective light pattern, a zebra hide was determined to be the least attractive to bloodsucking flies. Researchers also discovered the width of the stripe played a role in warding off horse flies; the narrower the stripe patterns were the fewer flies were attracted.
Though you can still find plenty of zebra pattered turnout sheets, stall blankets, hay bags, leg wraps, and saddle pads, no such flysheets are available‚Ä¶yet. But rest assured that after this study makes its way through the equine community, they won‚Äôt be far behind.