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Enneagram Ones: Zebra

I chose the zebra to represent Enneagram style One. The information and facts below support this idea, but I chose zebras primarily because they are so elegant and regal, yet at the same time, so sturdy and practical, just like most Ones. Ones above all else are pragmatic, with enormous stamina for doing whatever they do well and right. Many Ones are also quite regal in bearing and dress style. Here are more reasons why zebras are like Enneagram Ones:

How They Look
Zebras, with their familiar horse-like physique and their distinct black and white striping pattern, are among the most recognizable of all mammals.

No animal has a more distinctive coat than the zebra. Each animal’s stripes are as unique as fingerprints – no two exactly alike – although each of the three zebra species has its own general pattern. It was previously believed that zebras were white animals with black stripes, since some zebras have white underbellies. Embryological evidence, however, shows that the animal’s background color is black and the white stripes and bellies are additions.

Enneagram Commentary: Although it is hard to determine another’s type with accuracy just by looking at or listening to another person, who hasn’t thought that Ones are easier to recognize than some other types? With their upright regal physiques, their strong opinions readily vocalized, and their dress style more impeccable and well-matched than most, Ones dress somewhat like one another, yet each One puts his or her own taste or spin to the tailoring test. Zebra stripes look so perfect. And the fact that they are black and white stripes also fits Enneagram style Ones, metaphorically at least. Most Ones engage in black and white thinking – that is, right or wrong; correct or incorrect; accurate or inaccurate; and so forth. Yes, Ones are zebraesque!

Their Core Attributes
Zebra facts show that they have wonderful and accurate hearing and eyesight capabilities. It is believed that they can see in color [not all animals do]. Zebras have excellent hearing, and tend to have larger, rounder ears than horses. Like horses and other ungulates, zebra can turn their ears in almost any direction. In addition to eyesight and hearing, zebras have an acute sense of smell and taste.

Enneagram Commentary: If anything, Ones are alert, with acute sensing ability that serve as excellent discriminators. While it is not likely they can turn their ears in any direction, Ones are pretty outstanding in their attention to detail and nuance. Ones do seem zebra-like.

Their Basic Character
Attempts have been made to train zebras for riding, since they have better resistance than horses to African diseases. Most of these attempts failed, though, due to the zebra’s more unpredictable nature and tendency to panic under stress.

Zebras communicate with each other with high-pitched barks and whinnying. Grevys zebras make mule-like brays. A zebra’s ears signify its mood. When a zebra is in a calm, tense, or friendly mood, its ears stand erect. When it is frightened, its ears are pushed forward. When angry, the ears are pulled backward. When surveying an area for predators, zebras will stand in an alert posture – ears erect, head held high, and staring. When tense, they will also snort. When a predator is spotted or sensed, a zebra will bark (or bray) loudly.

Enneagram Commentary: The basic character of the zebra seems very closely aligned to Enneagram Ones. Although Ones appear highly civilized, have you ever tried to tame a One? Most Ones have a wild streak in them (One moving to arrow line Seven), and many Ones can be unpredictable and/or reactive. When Ones become resentful, don’t like something, or feel angry, their upper bodies – especially their heads – often seem to pull backward (seriously!). Under stress (when a big mistake is looming or they feel out of control or as if they are about to be severely critiqued), most Ones do panic quite readily. And Ones do have quite a bark when feeling defensive.

How They Behave
Like horses, zebras walk, trot, canter, and gallop. They are generally slower than horses, but their great stamina helps them outpace predators. When chased, a zebra will zig-zag from side to side, making it more difficult for the predator. When cornered, the zebra will rear up and kick or bite its attacker.

Zebras are social animals that spend time in herds. They graze together, primarily on grass, and even groom one another. Like most members of the horse family, zebras are highly social. Their social structure, however, depends on the species.

Enneagram Commentary: Like zebras, Ones are very clever in their maneuvers, quick in their responses, and they can side-step difficult situations if they want to. When cornered (often with a critique from another person), Ones do rear up and figuratively bite the perceived attacker with an attack of their own. Are Ones more social or solitary? That also depends on the One. Some Ones are very group oriented, while others prefer to go solo.

An Addendum
In South Africa (and likely other places), the word zebra is pronounced zehbra. In the US, it is pronounced zeebra. I think the South Africans have it right, but then they also pronounce Weber (as in a Weber barbeque grill) as Weeber, whereas in the US, we say Wehber. Consistency aside, which is correct?

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11 years ago

Hi Ginger,

I chose the Zebra to represent Enneagram Type 4 when I created the Enneacards Enneagram Test at Enneagram.net. I thought the Zebra was a special and unique’ kind of horse, hence like a 4. Curiously enough, we are both wrong. In testing with thousands of people going through our Enneacards Test cards, which have a collage of pictures on them for each Type, it was the 7s by far who liked the zebra, not the 4s and not the 1s!. I imagine it appeals to their sense of fun, entertainment, and zany design style.

10 years ago

Funnily enough, I have over the years associated the zebra with the 6, picking up on the herd instinct and its persistent watchfulness for danger. I note the Cape Buffalo association with six in this typology. I guess different features of animal species appeal to different types. These variations don’t lessen the value of reflecting on the nuances of description of each style, however, and I appreciate the insights explored in this series.