Zombie herding is a survival tactic where you aim to intentionally attract zombies to a specific place. While, at first, this may sound suicidal, there’s actually many scenarios where this is a very effective strategy. This is because it allows you to exert a measure of control over the zombies and, for once, make them do what you want them to do.
There’s three basic approaches to zombie herding, the most dangerous of which is live-baiting. Live-baiting involves a living person going outside with the aim of attracting zombies so that they chase them. This means the zombies can then be led away from or to a specific location. This is a tactic which should only be used with slow zombies (since you can out-run them) and never with fast zombies (because you can’t!). There’s several instances where this is used on zombie stories. In particular, this is the basis of the Cardio rule in Zombieland. It’s also used to great effect in Shaun of the Dead, where the eponymous hero leads the zombie horde away from the front door of the Winchester so that the others can get in before they’re attacked and killed.
Live-baiting is exceedingly dangerous, and if anything goes wrong, you’ll most likely end up dead. As a result, it should only ever be attempted when you have a very clear strategy as to where you are going to lead them to, and also where you are certain of exactly how many zombies are present in a specific area as the last thing you want to do is run into another horde as you’re leading away the ones you are herding. If you survive, however, it’ll probably be the biggest adrenaline rush you’ll ever experience in your life, and it’s likely you’ll become a bit of a hero with you survival group: children will revere you, minstrels will write songs about you, maidens will swoon – okay, I’m going to far here, but you get the idea.
The second basic approach to zombie herding is bait-and-switch. In this approach, the aim is to herd the zombies to one location while you do something at another. This might be rescuing someone who’s trapped, recovering some stores or food, or escaping from a location where you’ve become trapped. The difference with live-baiting is that you remain within the safety of your compound while doing a bait-and-switch manoeuvre. In general, noise is used to draw the zombies to a specific location while those who are making the noise remain safely beyond their reach.
A good example of this is in the British TV series Dead Set, where some of the people trapped in the Big Brother house during a zombie apocalypse bang pots and pans together to attract zombies away from a door while others sneak out to get medical supplies from a local supermarket. The bait-and-switch approach to zombie herding is a lot less dangerous than live-baiting, but you still need to be careful. Attracting a large number of zombies to a specific point in your defences will increase the pressures on them, and it may be that if you attract enough of them they will be able to break through due to sheer weight of numbers alone.
Similarly, bait-and-switching can lead to pile-ups. This is when the zombies at the back keep pushing forward over those in front because they are so eager to get to those making the noise. If the ones at the front go down, those behind will scramble on top of them. If this happens for long enough, you’ll find a ramp of zombies forming and in the worst possible scenario this could become high enough for those zombies which clamber up to breach your defences. This possibility is demonstrated in a one of the scenes from Jerusalem in the recent World War Z movie, although in this case those who attracted the zombies did it by accident and not on purpose. Both of these dangers mean that if you’re trying to heard zombies using the bait-and-switch approach, you need to keep them moving around to ensure that your defences aren’t weakened.
The final approach to zombie herding is the-hunter-becomes-the-hunted. While the other two approaches are defensive, this is strictly an offensive manoeuvre. Here the aim is to bring as many zombies to a specific point where they can then be killed. Again, this is usually done using noise and it can be done on a range of scales. In a recent episode of The Walking Dead I watched (I’ve only just started series three), they used this zombie herding approach to bring a small number of zombies close to a fence where they could then kill them by stabbing them in the head.
In contrast, there’s a great scene in the World War Z book where they talk about using defensive squares to clear an area of zombies. The idea here is that you drop troops into a zombie-infected zone and they form a square with guns pointing outwards. Within the square there’s enough room to rest, as well as to stockpile ammunition with more capable of being delivered by air. Once everything is set up, they turn on a device to start attracting nearby zombies. When they get near enough they’re shot, but not before their moans have attracted more zombies and so on. Soon every zombie over hundreds of miles is heading for the troops (attracted by the moans of other zombies heading towards the square in the hope of finding fresh flesh). As long as the troops keep firing at a rate faster than the zombies approach, and don’t run out of ammo, eventually they’ll be left surrounded by a massive pile of dead zombies in the middle of a zombie-free zone. Of course, this technique requires a lot of courage and even just one soldier breaks ranks it can spell disaster.
In case you’re wondering, this is actually based on a real military strategy that has been used to great effect over the years from the Romans onwards as it is a very effective formation which allows a small number of troops to defend themselves against a much larger force. Probably the most famous example of the successful deployment of this strategy was at Rorke’s Drift, where a small garrison of 150 British and colonial troops defeated an army of several thousand Zulu warriors.
This type of offensive zombie herding could also be used to drive a horde of zombies over a cliff or into a canyon where they could be killed by people massed around the edges. In such cases, this would be very similar to the approaches used by pre-historic humans to hunt large and dangerous game, such as woolly mammoths. However, I’ve not come across zombie-herding being used in this way in any zombie stories (although I’m sure people will correct me if I’m wrong).
So, hopefully this post has shown you that while most of the time you want to make sure you stay off the zombies radar, there may be times when you’ll want to just the opposite. Sometimes this will be for defence and sometimes it will be for offensive, but either way, zombie herding is a high-risk, high-octane strategy which will get your heart racing as you do everything that your basic survival instincts are telling you is just plain wrong and the zombies start streaming towards you. It might be easier than herding cats, but it’s also a lot more dangerous!
From the author of For Those In Peril On The Sea, a tale of post-apocalyptic survival in a world where zombie-like infected rule the land and all the last few human survivors can do is stay on their boats and try to survive. Now available in print and as a Kindle ebook. Click here or visit www.forthoseinperil.net to find out more. To download a preview of the first three chapters, click here.
To read the Foreword Clarion Review of For Those In Peril On The Sea (where it scored five stars out of five) click here.