Why Are Zebras So Aggressive? (Explained)

by Alex Kountry
Updated on

The darkest aspect of a zebra is not its black stripes; the species is rife with aggressiveness and infanticide.

While zebras appear to be one of the more harmless creatures roaming the African plains, their social structure is based on aggression.

Zebras create harems, ruled by a dominant stallion who leads over up to six adult females and babies.

Younger stallions create bachelor groups until they are mature enough to defend their own females.

Why Are Zebras Aggressive?

Why Are Zebras So Aggressive

Bachelor zebras mature into dominating males who vie for their harems. This frequently culminates in vicious fights with plenty of kicking and biting.

The struggle may last hours or even days until one of them succumbs. The exhausted Zebra will almost certainly collapse to the ground.

At the same time, the victorious male continues kicking it until he sustains a serious injury.

Finally, if the beaten Zebra owns a harem, he will surrender it to the stronger male.

On the other hand, if he is a competitor, the stronger male will retain his harem. In contrast, the defeated male would rejoin a bachelor herd.

Additionally, fights might erupt between two zebras that already have a harem.

They can then fight over females in order to steal them for their own harem. Male-on-male conflicts are frequently violent and can result in death.

Males will attempt to bite the other’s throat and legs, and bouts can last hours. When one of the guys becomes weary and collapses, the other male may kick his adversary to death.

Males occasionally engage in play fights to hone their skills and create effective strategies that they can later utilize as adults.

However, hostility is hardly the most sinister aspect of a zebra’s nature. Suppose a male zebra secures a pregnant female for his harem.

In that case, he will rape her repeatedly until the pregnancy is terminated.

Zebra stallions will compete for females and even steal them from one another.

If the female is pregnant when abducted, the new male will rape her until she aborts the pregnancy.

Here is an article I wrote on why do zebras travel in a herd?

Are Zebras Aggressive to Humans?

Absolutely. They are significantly more aggressive and lethal.

Zebras have been known to kick one another to death and savagely bite any human who comes too close.

There are several reports of zebras murdering lions.

Are Zebras More Aggressive Than Horses?

When necessary, zebras will exhibit hostile behavior.

They are more nimble and capable of fending off assailants than horses or donkeys.

Due to the ecosystems in which they inhabit, zebras are accustomed to coping with potential predators and must take every precaution to protect themselves.

Horses are known to flee when confronted by predators and do not typically seek to attack.

Generally, horse battles are fought for dominance. Donkeys are frequently used to guard herds of sheep and goats and are capable of repelling wild canines.

Often, a zebra stallion would battle off predators, giving the rest of the herd time to flee.

At times, female zebras will join the attack if the herd is small. They often leave the stallions to deal with any predator attacks.

When it comes to predators, each herd has its own set of laws, which they always follow.

Do Zebras Kill Their Babies? (Why)

Yes, especially the male zebras.

Male zebras attack newborn zebras for two main reasons. First, when a herd is taken over, the first thing they do is kill any foals that aren’t theirs. They do this because they don’t want the foals to become a threat in the future.

Male animals have a limited amount of time to pass on their genes to the next generation when in charge of a harem.

Therefore, in order to demonstrate their dominance over the herd and prevent their offspring from becoming a potential rival, male zebras often murder foals sired by other males.

After giving birth to another’s foal, a female can’t get pregnant while caring for it.

This means that if the baby dies, the mother can become fertile again, which means he can pass on his genes.

Every mammal does it occasionally when confronted with offspring that aren’t their own.

They do it in order to sever a zebra stallion’s bloodline so he can mate with the mother and give birth to his own baby.

Survival of the fittest genes is all that matters.

Due to a new baby, the mother does not return to heat until the baby is nearly grown. Therefore, she cannot mate again.

It takes two days for the female to return to breeding after the father kills a baby born from another guy.

Also check out this article I wrote on can you ride a zebra?

Are Zebras Dangerous?

Yes, zebras are dangerous and do not meet the definition of domestication.

Most zebras live in the wild because they are not friendly to humans.

However, it’s not easy to survive in the wild, especially in the presence of enormous and powerful predators like lions, cheetahs, and hyenas.

As herbivorous prey, Zebras in South Africa have developed a fight-or-flight response.

Zebras have adapted to live in a harsh environment by becoming alert, attentive creatures who are always ready to fight.

Since they’ve been living in the wild for so long, Zebras have acquired a thick layer of skin and are wary of letting strangers near their group.

In addition, they were unable to be domesticated because of their aggressive character.

Why Do Zebras Fight?

There are different reasons why zebras fight each other. First, they combat one another to defend their territories, which are typically denoted by dung piles.

Second, Zebras battle to establish dominance.

This is obvious in Plain Zebras, who live in harems, where one male (the leader) has control and protection over several mares and their progeny.

When that control is threatened by a rival, Zebras frequently fight. Typically, these conflicts entail a great deal of kicking and biting.

Thirdly, another reason Zebras fight is due to a mare’s maturity.

During this period, rival stallions battle for her abduction from her family harem and incorporate into theirs. The family stallion is not easily defeated.

Fourthly, Zebras engage in combat as a form of training.

They participate in several play fights to prepare them for the future when they would head a harem and be responsible for defending their mares and children.


The Zebra continues to thrive despite deforestation, human encroachment on its migration routes, and killing in an animal kingdom where “might is right” and “flight or fight” are the norm.

It’s impossible to match the white and black traits of these single-hoofed creatures that wander the eastern and southern savannahs, mountains, woods, and shrublands of Africa and the numerous unsuccessful attempts to domesticate them.

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About the author

Alex Kountry

Alex Kountry is the founder of HayFarmGuy and has been a backyard farmer for over 10 years. Since then he has decided to write helpful articles that will help you become a better backyard farmer and know what to do. He also loves to play tennis and read books


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