Why Do Zebras Attack Their Young? (Answered)

The most that majority of people know of Zebras is what they were taught during their introduction to the English alphabet.

The last letter of the alphabet “Z” is usually represented with the image of this striped member of the horse and donkey family that has decorated children’s books with its exceptional black and white coat.

But there’s so much that many do not know about Zebras.

For example, most people don’t know that Zebras attack their young in order to protect their bloodline and assert dominance.

What do we mean? Are they social animals? How do they relate with their young? Are they territorial?

Do they eat flesh? In this piece, we shall attempt to address these concerns as best as we can. Stay with us!

Why do Zebras Attack Their Young?

Why Do Zebras Attack Their Young

Of the three living species of Zebras, namely: Grevy’s, Mountain, Plain; only the Plain Zebra has been recorded to be intolerant of their young, especially those that are not theirs.

The stallions of the Plain Zebra attack foals in their practice of infanticide.

They have also been recorded as going further in their practice of feticide which entails causing the abortion of a foetus by forced copulation or harassment.

It is garnered from reasonable data that the usual reason why Zebras, particularly the Plain Zebra attack their young can be linked to their sociological structure.

For Plain Zebras who live in harems, the head of which is a Stallion, they enjoy the protection and guidance of the stallion who owns the reproductive rights of the group.

When a new leader or stallion takes over the harem, it seeks to gain a reproductive advantage by attacking the young that are not of his bloodline.

Also, Zebras attack their young in order to assert dominance.

This is especially noticeable among Plain Zebras who live in harems where one male (the leader) has a number of mares and their offspring under his control and protection.

Where that control is threatened by a young rival, it is very commonplace to see Zebras fight each other. These fights usually involve a lot of kicking and biting.

Do Zebras Kill Their Young?

Yes, the Plain Zebra has been studied killing their young.

The practice of infanticide is very commonplace in the animal kingdom. Most animals do it to avoid raising another’s offspring.

Others do it as ending the life of the young may make their mothers more receptive to their advances for sexual activity.

The stallions of the Plain Zebra attack foals for a similar reason.

They practice infanticide and may even go as far as practicing feticide by forced copulation or harassment in order to protect and promote their own bloodline.

Plain Zebras killing their young can be linked to their sociological structure.

Given that they live in harems, headed by a stallion, they enjoy the protection and guidance of the stallion who owns the reproductive rights of the group until he is deposed.

When a new leader or stallion takes over the harem, it seeks to gain a reproductive advantage by killing the young that are not of his bloodline, even those unborn.

Here is an article I wrote on can zebras swim?

Do Zebras Eat Their Young?

No, Zebra do not eat their young. Zebras are herbivores. As a result, they have dentition specially adapted for the purpose of grazing alone.

Even though male Zebras possess canines that are shaped like spade, they only employ these when fighting.

Otherwise, their dentition of large incisors, highly crowned ridged molars are suitable for nothing else but clipping glass blades and grinding them. 

While it’s not uncommon for wild animals to kill for food, in the instances where the Zebras have been documented to kill their young, it has been chalked down to certain reasons.

For example, in Plain Zebras who live in harems, the head of which is a Stallion, they enjoy the protection and guidance of the stallion who owns the reproductive rights of the group.

When a new leader or stallion takes over the harem, it seeks to gain a reproductive advantage by attacking the young that are not of his bloodline.

Why are Zebras Aggressive?

As with almost all wild mammals, a couple of factors, make Zebras aggressive.

For one, the obvious fact that they are “wild” portends that they are unpredictable and so subject to aggressive demeanor.

For another, Zebras are territorial animals and so in a bid to defend the places they call home, they are not beyond squaring up against a rival.

Also adding to their aggressive stint are hormones that become even more apparent during mating season.

Males vie for the right to further their bloodlines and they do so by showing aggression to rival males.

In Plain Zebras, the leader of the harem has all the mares in the group at his disposal and as such any male that dares to encroach on his territory of females is subject to his aggression.

Why do Zebras Fight Each Other?

Zebras fight each other for a variety of reasons. Firstly, they attack each other in the protection of their territories which are usually distinguished by piles of dung.

Secondly, Zebras fight each other in order to assert dominance. This is especially noticeable among Plain Zebras who live in harems where one male (the leader) has a number of mares and their offspring under his control and protection.

Where that control is threatened by a rival, it is very commonplace to see Zebras fight each other.

These fights usually involve a lot of kicking and biting.

Thirdly, another reason why Zebras fight each other is the maturity of a mare.

At this period rival stallions slug it out to abduct her away from her family harem and bring her into theirs.

The family stallion does not give up without a fight.

Fourthly, Zebras fight each other as a sort of training.

They engage in a lot of play fights to prepare them for the future when they would eventually lead a harem and have to defend their mares and offspring.

Do Zebras Attack Humans?

Zebras do not attack humans. It is humans who have over the years attacked Zebras for their meat and colourful coat.

And even though humans have played a role in the extinction of some Zebra species there’s no documented occurrence of a Zebra attack on a human.

In fact, Zebras are one of the creatures that choose “flight over fight” as a response to danger.

Hunted by wild dogs, cheetahs, brown hyenas, spotted hyenas, leopards, lions and even Nile crocodiles, the Zebra’s only defenses are kicking and biting with minimal success given their lack of claws and efficient canines.

The relationship between Zebras and humans go way back.

In fact, there are a plethora of folktales and stories as to how this creature described by some as “the most elegant of quadrupeds” got its characteristic black and white stripes.

Conclusion

In the animal kingdom where “might is right” and where it’s usually about flight or fight, the Zebra continues to thrive despite deforestation, the continued encroachment of man on its migration routes and hunting.

These single-hoofed mammals that roam the east and south of Africa’s vast savannahs, mountains, woodlands, and shrublands, are unmatched for their distinctive white and black features, their speed and the several failed efforts put towards domesticating them.

Written by Chukay Alex

Chukay is a season writer and farmer who enjoys farming and growing plants in his backyard farm. When he is not farming you can find him at the nearest lawn tennis court, hitting a mean backhand down the line.

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