AskDefine | Define herd

Dictionary Definition



1 a group of cattle or sheep or other domestic mammals all of the same kind that are herded by humans
2 a group of wild animals of one species that remain together: antelope or elephants or seals or whales or zebra
3 a crowd especially of ordinary or undistinguished persons or things; "his brilliance raised him above the ruck"; "the children resembled a fairy herd" [syn: ruck]


1 cause to herd, drive, or crowd together; "We herded the children into a spare classroom" [syn: crowd]
2 move together, like a herd
3 keep, move, or drive animals; "Who will be herding the cattle when the cowboy dies?"

User Contributed Dictionary

see Herd



  1. herd, heord, heord.
  2. hirde, herde, heorde, hirde, hyrde, heorde. (Person who herds.)



  1. A number of beasts assembled together; as, a herd of horses, oxen, cattle, camels, elephants, deer, or swine; a particular stock or family of cattle.
    • 1768, Thomas Gray, Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard,
      The lowing herd wind slowly o’er the lea.
    • 2007, J. Michael Fay, Ivory Wars: Last Stand in Zakouma, National Geographic (March 2007), 47,
      Zakouma is the last place on Earth where you can see more than a thousand elephants on the move in a single, compact herd.
  2. A crowd of low people; a rabble.
    But far more numerous was the herd of such Who think too little and who talk too much. Dryden.
    You can never interest the common herd in the abstract question. Coleridge.
  3. One who herds or assembles domestic animals; a herdsman; -- much used in composition; as, a shepherd; a goatherd, and the like.

Usage notes

Herd is distinguished from flock, as being chiefly applied to the larger animals. A number of cattle, when driven to market, is called a drove.


number of beasts assembled together
  • Czech: stádo
  • Finnish: lauma
  • German: Herde
  • Greek: (domestic):κοπάδι (kopádi), (wild):αγέλη (agéli)
  • Japanese: 群れ (むれ, mure)
  • Polish: stado , trzoda (of pigs)
  • Serbian: stado
crowd of low people
  • Czech: stádo
  • Finnish: lauma, rahvas
  • Polish: stado
  • Serbian: stado
  • Finnish: paimen
  • German: Hirt, Hirte
  • Polish: pasterz
translations to be checked


  1. To unite or associate in a herd; to feed or run together, or in company; as, sheep herd on many hills.
  2. To associate; to ally one's self with, or place one's self among, a group or company.
    I’ll herd among his friends, and seem One of the number. Addison.
  3. To act as a herdsman or a shepherd.
  4. To form or put into a herd.
    I heard the herd of cattle being herded home from a long way away.


to unite or associate in a herd
  • Finnish: paimentaa
  • Spanish: conducir
to associate
  • Finnish: liittyä
to act as a herdsman
  • Finnish: paimentaa
to form or put into a herd
  • Finnish: paimentaa

Old High German


West Germanic *hertha, whence also Old English heorþ


herd m

Extensive Definition

A herd is a large group of animals. The term is usually applied to mammals, particularly ungulates. Other terms are used for similar phenomena in other types of animal. For example, a large group of birds is usually called a flock (this may also refer to certain mammals as well) and a large group of carnivores is usually called a pack. In addition, special collective nouns may be used for particular taxa: for example a flock of geese, if not in flight, is sometimes called a gaggle. However, in theoretical discussions in behavioural ecology, the generic term "herd" is used for all these kinds of assemblage. A herd may also refer to one that tends and cares for such groups (i.e. shepherds tend to sheep, and goatherds tend to goats, etc.).
When an association of animals (or, by extension, people) is described as a "herd", the implication is that the group tends to act together (for example, all moving in the same direction at a given time), but that this does not occur as a result of planning or co-ordination. Rather, each individual is choosing behaviour that corresponds to that of the majority of other members, possibly through imitation or possibly because all are responding to the same external circumstances. A herd can be contrasted with a co-ordinated group where individuals have distinct roles. Many human groupings, such as an army detachments or sports teams, show such co-ordination and differentiation of roles, but so do some animal groupings such as those of eusocial insects, which are co-ordinated through pheromones and other forms of animal communication. Conversely, some human groupings may behave more like herds.

Why do animals herd?

The question of why animals group together is one of the most fundamental in sociobiology and behavioural ecology. As noted above, the term "herd" is most commonly used of grazing animals such as ungulates, and in these cases it is believed that the strongest selective pressure leading to herding rather than a solitary existence is protection against predators. There is clearly a tradeoff involved, since on the one hand a predator may hesitate to attack a large group of animals, while on the other a large group offers an easily detected target. It is generally believed that the most important protective factor is risk dilution - even if a predator attacks the herd, the risk for any individual that it will be the victim is greatly reduced. In the case of predators, it is often unclear whether the term "herd" is appropriate, since there may be some degree of co-ordination or role differentiation in group hunting. Predator groups are commonly smaller than grazing groups, since although a pack may be more effective at pulling down prey than a single animal, the prey then has to be shared between all members, so that the weaker animals will often be better off hunting smaller prey on their own.

The structure and size of herds

A herd is by definition relatively unstructured. However, there may be one or a few animals which tend to be imitated by the rest of the members of the herd more than others. An animal taking this role is called a "control animal", since its behaviour will predict that of the herd as a whole. It cannot be assumed, however, that the control animal is deliberately taking a leadership role. Control animals are not necessarily, or even usually, those that are socially dominant in conflict situations, though they frequently are. Group size is an important characterestic of the social environment of gregarious species.

Domestic herds

Domestic animal herds are assembled by humans for practicality in raising them and controlling them. Their behaviour may be quite different from that of wild herds of the same or related species, since both their composition (in terms of the distribution of age and sex within the herd) and their history (in terms of when and how the individuals joined the herd) are likely to be very different.

Human parallels

The term herd is also applied metaphorically to human beings in social psychology, with the concept of herd behaviour. However both the term and concepts that underlie its use are controversial.
The term has acquired a semi-technical usage in behavioral finance to describe the largest group of market investors or market speculators who tend to 'move with the market,' or 'follow the general market trend.' This is at least a plausible example of genuine herding, though according to some researchers it results from rational decisions through processes such as information cascade and rational expectations. Other researchers, however, ascribe it to non-rational process such as mimicry, fear and greed contagion. "Contrarians" or contrarian investors are those who deliberately choose to invest or speculate counter to the "herd".
herd in Aymara: Tama
herd in Danish: Hjord
herd in German: Herde
herd in French: Troupeau
herd in Italian: Branco
herd in Dutch: Kudde
herd in Japanese: 群れ
herd in Norwegian: Flokk
herd in Polish: Stado
herd in Russian: Стадо
herd in Sicilian: Mànnara (brancu d'armali)
herd in Simple English: Herd
herd in Slovenian: Čreda
herd in Finnish: Lauma
herd in Swedish: Flock

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Gyropilot, army, assemblage, assemble, automatic pilot, boatheader, boatsteerer, bunch, cage, cicerone, cluster, collect, collection, colony, congregate, corral, courier, cowherd, coxswain, crowd, crush, dragoman, drift, drive, drove, drover, flock, gam, gang, gather, gather together, goad, goatherd, group, guide, guidepost, guider, helmsman, herdsman, hoi polloi, hold the reins, horde, host, kennel, lash, litter, mass, masses, mercury, multitude, navigator, pack, pilot, pod, pointer, press, prick, pride, punch cattle, rabble, ride herd on, river pilot, round up, run, school, shepherd, shoal, skulk, sloth, spur, steer, steerer, steersman, swarm, take the helm, throng, tour director, tour guide, trip, troop, whip, wrangle
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