Zorilla: 15 Facts You Won't Believe!

Learn a variety of zorilla facts about this curious mammal that is also called the striped polecat.

The striped polecat, or zorilla, (Ictonyx striatus) is a nocturnal animal of the family Mustelidae and phylum Chordata that are native to Africa. The name 'zorilla' comes from the Spanish word 'zorro' which means fox. Zorillas are small striped creatures that hunt for little rodents, small animals, insects, birds' eggs, and in some cases snakes or poultry. They look very similar to skunks but are actually a member of the weasel family. Zorillas also possess anal scent glands, just like skunks, which they use to spray a strong-smelling fluid on their predators for their safety. These mammals are black in color with stripes of white going down the length of their bodies, from the top of their head to the base of their tail. These black and white South African natives live in small burrows or in open spaces of trees or rocks. Male zorillas are larger in size than female zorillas, and they both reach sexual maturity at just six months of age. The young striped polecat is born blind, hairless, and pink in color. The striped polecat is a very aggressive and territorial animal and marks its territory through either its feces or through the smelly anal fluid spray it is infamous for.

For more relatable content, check out these gerbil facts and black rat facts for kids.


Fact File

What do they prey on?

Snakes, birds, rabbits, and rodents like rats and mice.

What do they eat?


Average litter size?


How much do they weigh?

2.2-3.2 lb (1-1.5 kg)

How long are they?

11-15 in (28-38 cm)

How tall are they?


What do they look like?

Black and white striped body with a gray tail

Skin Type


What are their main threats?

Lion, tigers

What is their conservation status?

Least Concern

Where you'll find them

Open woodlands, savanna


Southern Africa





Scientific Name

Ictonyx striatus





Zorilla Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a zorilla?

The zorilla, or striped polecat (Ictonyx striatus), is a member of the family Mustelidae and phylum Chordata. They can mainly be found living in the open country of Southern and Central Africa. Zorillas belong to the weasel family and are similar to the skunks in appearance.

What class of animal does a zorilla belong to?

Zorillas belong to the family of weasels and weasels belong to the class of Mammalia.

How many zorillas are there in the world?

The exact estimate of the total population of zorillas is not yet known exactly, but their conservation status is Least Concern in the IUCN list, which implies that they can be found in abundance in their habitats of choice and there is no immediate danger to their population.

Where does a zorilla live?

Striped polecats (Ictonyx striatus), also called zorillas, have adapted to live in all types of dry terrains, including plains, grasslands, bush country, forests, dry and rocky areas, and mountains. Normally striped polecats live in small burrows either dug by themselves or taken over from other animals; they can also live in a shelter made out of rocks, dry tree roots, or vegetal debris.

What is a zorilla habitat?

The continent where zorillas, or striped polecats (Ictonyx striatus), can be found is the African continent, mainly the open country of Southern Africa and Central Africa.

Who do zorillas live with?

Being predominantly solitary animals, the striped polecat or zorilla prefers to live alone in small burrows made by themselves or by other creatures. They do not like to live in groups or with other members of their species or kingdom.

How long does a zorilla live?

The lifespan of a striped polecat, also called zorilla (Ictonyx striatus), is somewhere between five to six years in the wild, and about 13 years in captivity.

How do they reproduce?

Zorillas or striped polecats, who are the natives of Central Africa and its subcontinent, follow the traditional reproduction method of bearing young offspring. Young male and female zorillas reach sexual maturity between the ages of three to six years. After mating, the female zorillas go through a gestation period of 37 days after which she gives birth to two to three baby zorillas per litter. Baby zorillas are born blind, hairless, and pink in color.

What is their conservation status?

As per the IUCN list, the conservation status of this nocturnal animal species (nocturnal implying they are active during the night times) is deemed of Least Concern, which implies that there is no sudden risk or danger to their entire population.

Zorilla Fun Facts

What do zorillas look like?

Just like skunks, zorillas produce a very foul-smelling odor from their anal glands in order to protect them from predators.

Zorillas are a small member of the weasel family. The zorilla has a black body with white stripes running all along the length of its body, from the top of its head to the bottom of its tail. They typically have a long, gray, fluffy tail with sharp, pointed claws. Zorillas also have white spots on their faces, one on each cheek and one on their forehead. They look very much like the common skunk, possessing similar anal scent glands but are classified as members of the weasel family. Male zorillas are a bit larger in size and weight than female zorillas.

How cute are they?

African zorillas are not typically considered to be cute in appearance, but this depends on your perspective! They are also very foul-smelling creatures due to their protective adaption of releasing odors to deter predators, which could dilute their cute factor.

How do they communicate?

Striped polecats or zorillas communicate with others of their species through a myriad of verbal signals and calls; for example, they have been noted to utilize growls and high-pitched sounds during aggression or fights. However, they do not require many communication methods as they are typically very solitary mammals, preferring to live alone.

How big are zorillas?

An African zorilla's size often ranges between 11-15 in (28-38 cm), whereas its tail's size ranges from a size of about 8-12 in (20-30 cm). Thus, zorillas are a bit smaller in size as compared to their related animal, the weasel or the skunk, whose length varies from 15-37 in (30-94 cm).

How fast can a zorilla fly?

Zorillas are nocturnal (meaning are active during the night) land mammals, and therefore they cannot fly, but they can run up to speeds of 15 mph (25 kph).

How much does a zorilla weigh?

The weight of a young zorilla falls in the range of between 2.2-3.2 lbs (1-1.5 Kg). Zorillas are much lighter in weight than the skunk, to whom it is related and compared with all the time. Skunks usually weigh somewhere around 1.1-18 lb (0.50-8.2 kg).

What are the male and female names of the species?

There is no special name given to the males and females.

What would you call a baby zorilla?

Baby zorillas do not bear any special name.

What do they eat?

The diet of a zorilla is carnivorous in nature as they mainly eat small rodents like mice, rabbits, and frogs. Their diet also comprises snakes, birds, insects, and eggs.

Are they poisonous?

Not much is known about their poisonous or non-poisonous nature, but they are often known to prey on poisonous rodents and snakes during their search for food.

Would they make a good pet?

No, these creatures don't make for good pets as they have adapted to particularly dry habitats, which is extremely difficult to imitate. Also, they are very smelly due to the fluid that they spray from their anal glands to protect themselves from their predator, which would make them even more difficult to keep as pets.

Did you know...

Zorillas derived their name from the Spanish word 'zorro,' which means fox. Zorillas are also referred to as African polecats, striped polecats, or cape polecats.

Skunks are very similar to polecats in their appearance, characteristics, and behaviors. Hence they are often referred to as polecats, but polecats are not really skunks; they are weasels.

Many farmers like to keep zorillas around their farms because they keep the number of beetle larvae down. They are nature's pest repellers.

What do zorillas smell like?

The zorilla is often associated with foul odors, just like skunks, which are due to a fluid they spray produced in the anal gland. Their smell is extremely unbearable and intolerable to humans as well as other animals.

Are polecats and skunks the same thing?

The main point of distinction between the skunk and the polecat is in regard to their biological classification. 'Skunk' is the common name assigned to the mammal, which belongs to the genus Mephitidae and 'polecat' is a common name assigned to several species of mammals. Polecats are not skunks; they are actually weasels, but due to the similarity in their appearance, they are often confused.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some more mammals from our gopher facts and hoary marmot facts pages.

You can even occupy yourself at home by coloring in one of our free printable Zorilla coloring pages.



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