Leaving the herd

Pamushana | July 2019

In preparation for this article I have been reading up on zebras and found some really interesting information in the book, ‘The Behaviour Guide to African Mammals’ by Richard D. Estes.

I’ve paraphrased it as follows: Foals follow at their mothers’ heels from the time they can stand. A mother makes all other zebras keep their distance, until the foal becomes imprinted, recognizing the mother’s smell, stripe pattern, and voice. The bond with previous offspring is broken or weakened at this stage. However, it is quite common for zebras to foal only every other year. The young stay in the natal herd until adolescence. Males are not driven out by their fathers but leave on their own accord in search of peers with which to compete and play. Young males interact far more than females, making bachelor herds a much livelier society than female groups. In the absence of other playmates, foals try to play with their mothers, but mares tend to be singularly unplayful.

It’s a common misconception that the young colts are driven out by the stallion, but in light of Estes’ explanation and my years of observance I can attest to the fact that bachelor groups are far more playful and feisty than family groups with mares and foals.