Why Do Zebras Travel in a Herd? (Answered)

by Alex Kountry
Updated on

Numerous animals naturally live and travel in herds. Zebras form herds. Zebras tend to congregate in smaller family groupings within a herd.

Families typically consist of a guy, multiple females, and their offspring.

Zebras are not lonely creatures and will never prefer to live alone if given the opportunity.

Therefore, the term “herd” rather than “pack” describes a group of zebras that live, eat, and travel together.

Zebras are gregarious creatures, and they communicate with one another through play and grooming.

They form intimate bonds with other zebras in the herd as they rest and feed. In addition, they feel safety in numbers

Zébras are continuously on the move in search of new vegetation and food and drink sources.

When they move to new feeding places, they can form massive herds numbering in the tens of thousands.

Wildebeest and other grazers and browsers, such as zebras, are frequently seen in mixed herds with these animals.

Why Do Zebras Travel in a Herd?

Why Do Zebras Travel in a Herd

Zebras actually get their sense of well-being from the herd.

As a herd, the animals work together to keep pests at bay and protect one another to rest comfortably.

If a horse is left alone, he may never be able to unwind completely.

Unlike other herd animals, zebras on the plains and in the mountains live in families with a stallion, numerous mares, and the progeny of each of these individuals. 

Some of these groupings become loosely connected herds of up to several hundred throughout specific times of the year.

Still, the family groups remain in these bigger groups. For example, Grevy’s male and female zebras do not form a herd and have no long-term relationship. 

The stallions of Grevy’s zebra herd establish territories, which mares use to breed and give birth to their calves.

In order to maintain their nomadic existence, the mares usually leave the stallion’s area when their foals are old enough.

Here is an article I wrote on can you ride a zebra?

How Do Zebras Benefit from Living in a Group?

Living in groups of zebras benefits the animals when a predator (e.g., a lion) follows them. Their stripes are likely to confuse the predator.

In reality, zebra herds are made up of individual family groupings.

A dominant male stallion leads each family group. One dominant female oversees the other seven or eight females and their offspring. 

At mealtimes, a single animal acts as a guard.

Whenever a predator approaches, such as a pack of wild dogs or lions, the stallion zebra ensures that no single animal falls behind or becomes vulnerable to attack by moving to the back of the fleeing herd. 

When a lone zebra is in danger, it makes a loud noise that attracts the attention of the other zebras, who rally to its defense.

Does a Zebra Live Alone?

Not all zebra species live alone.

For example, plains and mountain zebras live in stable harems comprised of an adult male or stallion, several adult females or mares, and their young or foals.

In contrast, Grévy’s zebras live alone or in loosely connected herds.

After a young mare mate for the first time, she will spend the remainder of her life with the same family group.

Males who have not yet produced herds — or have been ejected from their herds by other males — live in male-only bands (bachelor herds) until they are around six years old and leave to find mates.

Suppose stallions attempt to capture mares from an established family group. In that case, they will face off against the stallion of that group.

Males in excess form bachelor groups in all species.

Typically, these are young men who have not yet established a harem or territory.

Males in a bachelor group in the plains zebra form deep relationships and follow a linear dominance structure.

Bachelor groups are typically found outside herds, and as the herd moves, the bachelors follow.

What are Zebra Herds Called?

The most frequently used collective noun is a dazzle of zebras, which refers to the motion dazzle effect caused by a group of rushing zebras.

A group of zebras can also be referred to as a herd of zebras or a zeal of zebras, but these are less entertaining terms.

Zebras are gregarious creatures that dwell in big herds. As they migrate to new grazing grounds,’ super herds’ of thousands of animals may form.

They may also migrate in groups with other grazers, like antelope and wildebeest.

Also check out this article I wrote on what sound does a zebra make?

Are Zebra Herds Matriarchal?

Zebras do not have matriarchy. Instead, two basic social structures exist in zebra species.

Plains and mountain zebras live in stable, closed family groups called harems, composed of a stallion, several mares, and their offspring. 

These tribes have distinct home ranges that overlap, typically itinerant. Stallions establish and expand their harems by recruiting mares from their natal harems.

The group maintains its stability even when the family stallion dies or is moved. 

Plains zebra populations are also classified as fission-fusion societies.

This is because they form enormous herds and occasionally form stable subgroups within a herd, letting individuals socialize with those outside their group.

Females of these species benefit because males provide them with additional time to feed, protect their young, and prevent predators and harassment by other males. 

A linear dominance hierarchy exists among females in a harem, dependent on the time they join the group.

Harems travel in an orderly fashion, with the highest-ranking mares and their offspring leading the groups, followed by the next-highest-ranking mare and her offspring, and so on. 

The stallion of the family takes up the rear.

Young of both sexes leave their natal groupings as they mature; females are typically herded into permanent membership in their harems by outside men.

How Many Zebras are there Usually in a Herd?

Typically, the herd is commanded by a dominant male, referred to as a stallion.

Additionally, the herd includes many females and their young.

They live in family groups of five to twenty individuals, each with a stallion, a few mares, and their offspring.

These basic family groupings remain together even when they congregate in large herds.

During migration, family groupings generate larger herds by combining with other family groups and bachelor herds.

While migrating, the group structure will remain intact, and they will travel in single file for several miles (kilometers).

Stallions will either lead or tail the herd. This is to protect mares and foals from predators.


Zebras travel in herds, which helps them protect each other from predators.

Zebras spend a lot of time together because they are herd animals. They spend a lot of time grooming each other and eating grass together.

The plains zebra is the most common zebra species. Stallion, multiple females, and their kids live in small family groups.

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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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