Monday, January 18, 2016


What do you call a group of?????
  • Elephants: a parade
  • Elk: a gang
  • Ferrets: a business
  • Fox: a leash, skulk or earth
  • Buffalo: a gang or obstinacy
  • Donkeys: a pace
  • Giraffes: a tower
  • Goats: a tribe or trip
  • Gorillas: a band
  • Hippopotamuses: a bloat or thunder
  • Hyenas: a cackle
  • Jaguars: a shadow
  • Kangaroos: a troop or mob
  • Lemurs: a conspiracy
  • Leopards: a leap
  • Martens: a richness
  • Moles: a labor
  • Monkeys: a troop or barrel
  • Mules: a pack, span or barren
  • Otters: a romp
  • Pigs: a drift, drove, sounder, team or passel
  • Porcupines: a prickle
  • Porpoises: a pod, school, herd or turmoil
  • Rabbits: a colony, warren, nest, down, husk or herd (domestic only)
  • Rhinoceroses: a crash
  • Squirrels: a dray or scurry
  • Tigers: an ambush or streak
I'd heard of some of these terms used to describe animal groups but I'd never heard of a "dazzle of zebra" before going to Africa. And what a perfect name it is! When a group of zebra are together moving, the stripes juggling around on legs, bodies and faces is mesmerizing. Dizzying. In fact, a "dizzy of zebra" wouldn't be a half-bad term to use. With my eyesight and ever-wavering horizon if I watched too long I'd have to glance away to get re-stabilized. I'm sure there's a similar effect on lions and hyenas, the primary predators of the zebra. Mother Nature rewards success and the zebra evolved, striped, for camoflage. In the tall grass with deep shadows, they disappear. "Look at the zebra," someone exclaims and as the dazzle trots into the grass they disappear like a puff of smoke. Safe....for the moment.


In a typical zebra cluster, the safest place to be is in the middle. Standing out from the crowd increases the chance of being picked off by a lion or hyena. An animal standing alone could be sick and therefore easy pickings.

Every zebra has unique stripes; they're like fingerprints, and even though they all look alike to us, a foal can spot it's mother immediately from her striping. 

Zebra babies are up and running within a couple of hours of birth. They have to be able to keep up with the harem right away as the group is always on the move. This little guy has particularly beautiful stripes including the two on each ear. They're born after an 11 month gestation period; they stand one hour after birth and by two hours, they're running. They have to be able to keep up with the harem or it's curtains. At a week old, they start to graze even though they will continue to suckle for months.

When you see Zebra clustered together like this they are likely a harem. A harem is a stallion with a group of female zebras, or fillies and their offspring. The group typically numbers about a dozen. They stand very close together not because they are demonstrating affection but because the confusion of stripes makes it difficult for predators to visually sort out one animal from the pack. When harems come together for migration they become a dazzle.
Like all animals, they are most vulnerable while drinking. The cluster effect creates confusion for the eye and protection wherever they are. You see the animals in tight little knots around the waterholes or at the rivers' edge.

This guy is a handsome specimen. The males leave the harem when they are between a year and two years. From then on, their goal in life is to get a harem of their own, by displacing an older stallion and claiming his harem. If they succeed in driving out or killing an established stallion and taking over, the first they do is kill the foals. Nature drives them to get rid of the old genes and replace them with their own stronger genes. The mares will not come into estrus while they still have nursing babies so they aren't receptive to the males. Killing the babies takes care of that problem. The fillies come into heat for about a week - a glory week for the stallion after which the pregnant females are no longer receptive but his genes are "in the bag" so to speak. From then forward, he's defending his territory against a new crop of perhaps stronger, younger males.
A dazzle.

The beautiful stripes have inspired artists:
Colored Zebra
Zebra fragments

One cannot think of stripes without conjuring up the image of prison uniforms. Prison officials used the stripes so that prisoners would be immediately recognizable; in many ways, the exact opposite motivation of Mother Nature in her allocation of stripes to the zebra.


  1. Humans can get a little vulnerable when drinking as well.

  2. Thank you for the education on dazzles of zebras and zebra harems! I am hoping I won't need this group education because my little pea brain can't accommodate it.