How Do Zebras Behave?

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Zebras, best known for their black and white stripes, are herbivorous social animals that like to travel in groups. Zebras engage in mutual grooming behavior and travel at a pace that accommodates the elderly, infirm and young.

A zebra group is known as a harem, which is composed of one stallion and up to six mares and their young. Some herds combine to form larger temporary herds with up to 30 members. Females sort themselves into a hierarchy led by the dominant mare. Each mare is followed by her young, with the lowest-ranking mare found at the end of the line. Although the dominant male technically leads the harem, he doesn’t occupy any particular place in line.

Unlike plains and mountain zebras, Grevy’s zebras form harems for only a few months before disbanding. The adult female serves as the primary protector for her young. Bachelor males of all three types of zebras organize into herds. Zebras communicate with each other through a series of high-pitched barks, whinnies and brays, especially to signal the presence of a predator. Mares can breed by age 3, but stallions don’t mature until the ages of 5 or 6. Out to Africa observes that it isn’t unusual to see a foal that has formed close bonds with both its mother and father.