MNN Galleries

7 examples of animal democracy

African buffalo

Photo: ZUMA Press

5 of 9

African buffalo

Similar to red deer, African buffalo are herd herbivores that often make group decisions about when and where to move. In the 1990s, researchers realized that what initially looked like "mundane stretching" is actually a type of "voting behavior," in which females indicate their travel preferences by standing up, staring in one direction and then lying back down.

"Only adult females vote, and females participate regardless of their social status within the herd," biologist David Sloan Wilson wrote in a 1997 study. "When the average direction of gaze is compared with the subsequent movement of the herd, the average deviation is only three degrees, which is well within measurement error. On days in which cows differ sharply in their direction of gaze, the herd tends to split and graze in separate patches for the night."