At birth, a zebra foal's stripes are brown and white instead of black and white, and its fur is fuzzy and soft. It recognizes its mother's stripe pattern very quickly and follows her closely; if they become separated, the zebra foal is likely to die, as zebra mares do not adopt strange foals. Sometimes a zebra mare separates slightly from the herd with her foal so that they can bond, and then afterward, they return into the midst of the herd for protection.
Female zebras often have their first foals by age 3 and subsequently have them each year. Only one foal is born at a time. The mare nurses the foal for up to a year after birth. Zebras live in family groups consisting of a stallion and a number of mares and foals. When a new stallion replaces the other, the group remains intact. If predators such as wild dogs or hyenas threaten the group, the stallion attacks and adults cluster around the young to protect them.