A herd is a group of wild or domestic animals of the same species that remain together in groups. The main reason herd animals stick together is because grouping increases the chance of survival.
Humans live in groups because they are social beings. However, this trait is not reserved for people only other animals too may prefer to live in groups for their benefit.
There are all sorts of animals that live in groups, mammals, reptiles, and even some types of birds. The different animal groups may have varying names, but the purpose of their gathering is similar.
This list compiles 10 herd animals.
- American Bison
10 Animals That Live in Herds
Scientific Name – Loxodonta
Range – Asia and Africa
The first animal on our list of herd animals is an elephant. This giant has the title of the world’s largest land mammal lives in groups of between seven and ten.
There are three species: the Asian elephant, African bush, and African forest. A group of elephants is called a herd, and it is mainly made up of females.
Other than female adults, there are male young ones who only live with the rest up to the age of 15 years. Later, they usually venture off to live alone or with two or three other males. They only come close to the group during mating or when protecting a watering hole.
The herd is led by a matriarch who is the oldest in the group, and when she dies, the oldest daughter usually takes up leadership.
Scientific Name – Equus caballus
Range – Worldwide
Horses are herding animals that have a standard hierarchical way of life. A typical herd of horses includes one dominant male, females, and their young ones.
The size of the horse herd may vary from a few members to up to 25 individuals. There can be other submissive males in the group in some cases, but this is not very common.
Males often live on their own and will only approach females for mating purposes. Males show dominance by controlling who comes in and goes out of the herd.
Usually, the dominant male will chase away any animal that threatens their authority and will restrict those that want to come in. The alpha male has breeding rights within the herd and will prevent other males from trying to make moves to their females.
When stallions reach maturity age, they are typically kicked out of the herd, and they meet up with other horses to create a ‘bachelor herd‘.
Scientific Name – Cervidae
Range – Worldwide
Groups of deer are known as herds, and they comprise a dominant male, a few females, and their young ones. You can differentiate males from females by the presence of antlers.
Each herd is led by female deer, known as a doe. Typically the most experienced and eldest doe.
On the other hand, males are responsible for defending the herd from other males that may invade. The dominant male can usually breed with all the females in the herd. Another male may challenge them, which they settle with a fight.
The females enjoy better security within the herd, unlike if they were alone. They share good food spots, and in case of an attack, they have a better chance of defending themselves together. The male young only stay with the herd until they are mature, then they venture off alone.
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Scientific Name – Bison bison
Range – North America
American bison or simply buffaloes are the largest land animals in North America. While this animal was almost extinct, conservation efforts have helped increase the numbers to about 350,000 bison.
They are social animals that love to travel in groups. A group of buffalos is called a herd. Buffalos use their numbers to protect against meat-eaters. In case one of their members is in danger, other individuals will act aggressively towards their predators.
There are two types of bison herds; one with only females and their calves and the other with only males. Each herd counts anywhere from 2,000 to 3,000 members.
There is no dominant in any of the herds, so each has equal responsibility for the other animals. The only time the herds are mixed is when the males join females to look for a mate during mating season.
American bison communicate through sound and smell. In addition, the bison release pheromones that come in handy during the mating season since it helps attract a mate.
Scientific Name – Antilocapra americana
Range – African and Asia
There are two kinds of antelopes one that mostly lives in the forest and wetlands while the other lives in the savannah in Africa. A few species are found in Asia.
Antelopes live in herds that typically consist of a male, several females, and their young ones. They usually live in herds of at least ten animals and as many as 50.
The purpose of the community is to protect the animals from predators. The dominant male usually mates with multiple females in the herd, especially if it is small.
However, larger herds typically have more than one dominating male to ensure all the animals’ growth and survival. They migrate in their large groups in search of food and to escape predators such as lions and cheetahs.
Scientific Name – Equus zebra
Range – Africa
A group of zebras is known as a dazzle, and it is made up of a male, a few females, and their young. These family groups usually consist of five to 20 individuals.
Unlike the deer, where the male is the sole leader, the oldest females in the group usually have dominance over the rest of them.
Sometimes a smaller dazzle may come together to form a much larger group. This allows members of the smaller subgroups to interact with others that are not in their dazzle. This will also enable them to protect each other better from predators and help with the reproduction within the groups.
The newly formed herds can count up to 1,000 individuals. These large groups are also known as ‘super herds‘, and occasionally, they even team up with other herd animals, such as antelopes or wildebeest.
Scientific Name – Bos taurus
Range – Worldwide
Cows are domesticated animals that are found in herds. Many years ago, before humans started keeping cattle, they were found in the wild, where they traveled in groups of around 30.
Cows are social animals, and apart from social reasons, they will group together in order to reduce the threat of being attacked. This behavior did not change with domestication since they still prefer to move in herds depending on how many animals are available.
There is no set social structure of cows in herds, so they group depending on the animals in a home. They do not challenge any animals that may want to join or leave.
However, it is common to find bulls fighting to challenge each other. This is usually to assert dominance over the herd or during mating season.
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Scientific Name – Connochaetes
Range – Africa
Wildebeest or simply gnus are legendary herd animals native to Africa. A herd of wildebeest is known as confusion. The name confusion is most likely related to the noise and confusion that happens when these creatures group up and migrate together.
A herd of wildebeest mostly counts females and their young. Males typically leave the herd once they are one year old; joining other males to create a bachelor herd. Wildebeest are sociable and territorial beasts, and apart from their horns, gnus’ will first line of protection is herding.
Each year a gigantic group of wildebeests (two million) together with zebras and gazelles (700,000) travel 1,200 miles in search of food and water. This long journey is called The Great Migration, including different herd species migrating through Tanzania and Kenia.
Scientific Name – Giraffa
Range – Africa
A group of giraffes is known as a herd or tower. It is a fitting name for the animal that is known to be the tallest in the world. Giraffes are curious animals that live in a herd of a few to 20 members, sometimes up to 50.
While they are social animals and like to live together, they don’t have a structure like many animals that live in herds. The animals in the tower come and go at will, and no animal restricts entry or exit.
Yet, it is common to find small groups of around 10 giraffes that comprise only females and their young. In such groups, the females take turns to watch out for predators and care for the young. Males too may group together and playfully fight each other for dominance.
However, male giraffes usually live nomadic lives and are less social than females. The main reason giraffes live in herds is that they can protect each other from ferocious predators such as lions and hyenas.
However, it is safe to say that giraffes, unlike other large mammals, have the least structured type of herd and not so strong bonds among each other.
Scientific Name – Capra aegagrus hircus
Range – Worldwide
The last members of our list of herd animals are goats. A group of goats is known as a tribe or a trip. The number of wild goats in a herd may vary, from very few individuals to up to 130 members.
Typically the ratio within a herd is two to per one in favor of the female goats. Goats are widely recognized as social creatures, and in any given herd, the leader is a female goat, known as the herd queen.
A herd queen is usually the oldest and the most aggressive doe. The queen goat has a couple of benefits. She gets the best sleeping spot, as well as a whole feeder. Apart from that, a herd queen decides when and where to go out to pasture.
Final Thoughts on Herd Animals
And that’s all for herd animals both domestic and wild ones. Many other animals live in groups not mentioned here, as they are not considered herd animals. Some of them include, kangaroos, lions, wolves, dolphins, such as raccoons, gorillas, seals, whales, to mention a few.
Animals live in their herds for various reasons, including protection and social needs. In addition, with their large numbers, they can ward off most of the danger they face in the wild.
In a nutshell, animals form groups to increase their chances of survival. Life in the wilderness has no mercy and being surrounded by the same species and with family members is much safer than living on your own.
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