Very long ago, when the oldest person on Earth was little more than a baby, a huge herd of wild, white zebras roamed the African savannah. They were happy and they were free, but they had one problem. These zebras were very vain! Now, as we all know, a little dirt won’t harm anyone, but the zebras hated how it dusted their ivory fur, and so they stayed as clean as they could.
A lion lived on the plains, too. He stalked the zebras from a distance. “I will eat one of those zebras for breakfast!” he said to himself.
They heard the lion coming and panicked.
“What can we do?” wailed one.
“I know,” said another. “Let’s hide in the grass.”
So they did.
“I CAN SEE YOU,” roared the lion. “YOUR WHITE FUR STANDS OUT AGAINST THE BROWN WEEDS.” Then he chased them around for a while.
All the zebras managed to escape, but it was a close call.
“My beautiful fur is streaked with mud. This is horrible,” one complained, and the others agreed. They were about to travel to the watering hole to bathe when there was a growl in the distance.
“Do you hear that?”
“It sounds like a cheetah.”
“A cheetah! But that’s our worst enemy. The cheetah is even worse than the lion.”
They stood absolutely still.
The cheetah came closer and closer. Soon, she was so close that she could have touched the zebras with her paw. And yet, she did not attack.
“I thought for sure there were some zebras around here,” she said. “I was wrong, I guess.” Finally, she left.
The herd looked at each other, confused.
“I know why this happened,” said the wise elder. “The mud on our fur blends in with the grass. If we keep it on, our kind will be safe forever.”
That’s exactly what they did; to this day, the zebras have black streaks on their white fur.