Pandas DataFrame: Get head/tail rows of each group

Updated: February 21, 2024 By: Guest Contributor Post a comment


When working with large datasets in Python, Pandas is an indispensable library that provides numerous functions for data manipulation and analysis. One common task is to examine or analyze particular segments of your dataset, especially when dealing with grouped data. This tutorial will guide you through the process of obtaining the first (head) or last (tail) rows of each group within a DataFrame.

Introduction to Grouping in Pandas

Grouping data is essential when you want to perform operations on subsets of your dataset that share common characteristics. The groupby function in Pandas is used for splitting the data into groups based on some criteria. Once data is grouped, aggregate, transform, or filtration operations can be performed on each group independently.

Getting Started with Grouped DataFrames

To demonstrate getting the head and tail rows of each group, let’s start by creating a sample DataFrame:

import pandas as pd

# Sample DataFrame
data = {
    'Category': ['A', 'A', 'B', 'B', 'C', 'C'],
    'Values': [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6]
df = pd.DataFrame(data)


This results in:

  Category  Values
0        A       1
1        A       2
2        B       3
3        B       4
4        C       5
5        C       6

Getting Head Rows of Each Group

To get the first row(s) of each group, we use the head method after grouping the DataFrame by our specified criterion. For instance, to get the first row of each category:

grouped = df.groupby('Category')

This will output:

  Category  Values
0        A       1
2        B       3
4        C       5

In this basic example, we specified that we want the first row of each group by passing the number 1 to the head method. You can adjust this number to fetch more rows from the start of each group.

Getting Tail Rows of Each Group

Similarly, to get the last row(s) of each group, we use the tail method. For example, to get the last row of each category:


This generates:

  Category  Values
1        A       2
3        B       4
5        C       6

As with the head method, you can pass a different number to tail to retrieve more rows from the end of each group.

Advanced Grouping and Row Retrieval

For more complex analyses, you might want to group by multiple columns and perform more detailed operations. Let’s assume we have an additional ‘Subcategory’ column and want to get the first two rows of each combination of category and subcategory:

data['Subcategory'] = ['X', 'X', 'Y', 'Y', 'X', 'Y']
df = pd.DataFrame(data)

# Group by multiple columns
grouped = df.groupby(['Category', 'Subcategory'])

The versatility of grouping in Pandas allows for rich and deep data exploration and manipulation, tailoring outputs to your specific needs.

Using Custom Functions for Complex Criteria

For scenarios where built-in methods like head and tail do not suffice, you can apply custom functions to each group with the apply method. For instance, if you want to retrieve rows based on a condition within each group:

def custom_head(group):
    return group[group['Values'] > 1].head(1)


This custom function filters each grouped segment for values greater than 1 and then returns the first of such rows, providing greater control over the data retrieval process.


Understanding how to effectively group and retrieve specific rows of data in Pandas can significantly enhance your data analysis. Whether you’re performing a quick examination of your data or conducting deep dives into grouped datasets, mastering the use of head, tail, and custom functions on grouped DataFrames facilitates a more nuanced understanding of your data.