What You Need to Know About Zebras Socialising in the Wild

Aug 1 2016

A fairly common sighting to see in the fresh of the morning in most African game reserves is that of plains or Burchell’s zebra grazing. They are fascinating animals to watch, often displaying animated antics amongst each other. Download the real time Latest Sightings app (iPhone / iPad or Android) to experience similar sightings such as what Khalil Abi, wildlife photographer witnessed here early one morning in Madikwe Game Reserve, South Africa.

“Watching these male zebras for quite some time they put on an interesting show for us”, says Khalil. What is interesting about the social structures of zebras is that they are few of the wildlife species that have a one-male harem ( a group of female animals sharing a single mate), while other males socialise in bachelor groups approximately made up of 2-15 males. One will find them in these tight knit groups until they are able to start their own harem. Plains zebra herds will mix and migrate together along with other species such as wildebeests. They generally coexist peacefully and will alert each other to predators.


A dazzle of plains zebra is most often spotted in open grasslands or woodland plains close to water sources. They are also generally spotted in pairs, with the one resting its head upon the other. This is because it allows them to monitor for danger in all directions and rid flies from each other’s face. The flies are the reason one will often see a zebra nodding their heads and curling their lips. 

Mares coincide in a hierarchy, with the alpha female being the first to mate with the stallion, and is the one to lead the group. New mares to the group are more often than not met with severe hostility and need protection from the harem until the mood is settled. Zebras communicate with each other with high-pitched barks and whinnying. A zebra's ears signify its mood - when it is calm, its ears stand erect; when it is frightened, its ears are pushed forward; when angry the ears are pulled backwards and one will also hear them snorting when tense, and perhaps predators are in the vicinity. 


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