Primitive tribes trying to avoid painful horsefly bites may have turned to zebras for inspiration.

Although the creature’s black and white stripes are thought to act as camouflage, research has shown that they also deter blood-sucking horseflies.

Scientists claim stripy body-paint used by aboriginal Africans scatters light, making it harder for insects to see them.

To test this, they painted mannequins with stripes similar to the body art of tribal people, and found horseflies kept away, as with earlier tests on zebras.

The authors, from Eotvos Lorand University in Hungary, wrote in the Royal Society Journal: ‘The most striking striped mammals are zebras. Their striped pattern reduces attractiveness to horseflies. 

‘Our brown human model was ten times more attractive to horseflies than the white-striped model.’

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