How Long Is An Elephant Pregnant? Interesting Facts You May Not Know

Tanya Parkhi
Jan 24, 2024 By Tanya Parkhi
Originally Published on Nov 10, 2021
Fact-checked by Amatullah Gulbargawala
Elephant in the jungle.
Age: 3-18
Read time: 4.6 Min

Did you know among all mammals, elephants have the longest gestation period?

Being one of the smartest mammals on Earth, these babies take an astonishingly long time to develop. Elephant calves can spend almost two years in the womb-which can make pregnancy quite taxing for expectant mothers!

Being one of the most intelligent animal species on Earth, elephants have long gestation periods in order to ensure the proper development of their calves inside the womb. A newborn elephant is born with immaculate survival instincts, as the long gestation period ensures that their brains are wired with information necessary for them to survive by themselves, and their bodies are developed enough for them to walk only one to two hours after birth! To learn more interesting elephant pregnancy facts, read on!

If you enjoy this article, do check out our other pages on how long do cats live and how long do rabbits live.

How long are elephants pregnant for?

The duration of an elephant cow's pregnancy can differ slightly depending on the species. African elephants, on average, are pregnant for around 22 months, whereas Asian elephants have a slightly shorter gestation period of between 18-22 months. With gestation periods of almost two years in length, elephants are the mammals with the longest gestation period! On the other hand, the mammals with the shortest gestation period are hamsters, who are only pregnant for between 16-23 days.

In comparison, other large mammal species have much shorter gestation periods. Even blue whales, the largest mammals in the world, take 10-12 months each to create offspring, which is almost half the time taken by elephants! Hippos have a shorter pregnancy than that, which lasts for just under eight months (243 days). Another large animal, the horse, is observed to carry its babies for a long period of time, with baby horses being born after 11-12 months in the womb. Related to horses, tapirs have a gestational period of 13 months. However, none of these match up to that of the elephant, at two years!

The large size of elephants, and them being the largest brained mammals on the Earth, plays a part in them having the longest gestational period among all mammals, according to science. Usually, more intelligent animals take longer to develop in the womb, and elephants are among the smartest animals in the world! Elephant babies are born with highly developed brains due to this, with which they can survive by themselves from birth.

Some functions calves are able to do as newborns are that they can feed themselves with their trunks and automatically understand and adhere to the complex herd structures which an elephant group follows. Proper development of a calf in the womb is very important.

How many babies can an elephant give birth to at once?

Elephants, similar to humans, carry only one baby at a time. In a few rare cases (approximately 1%), elephant pregnancies result in twins being born. This phenomenon is more common in African elephants and is considered quite dangerous for the mother considering the sheer size of the calves.

Elephants become mature enough to reproduce at around 10-12 years. During her lifetime, an elephant mother can have around four to five pregnancies, giving birth to one baby each time. As the gestation period is quite long, with most elephant pregnancies lasting for almost two years, a cow can get pregnant every four to five years. Elephants have very long lives, as they can live up to 70 years. By this logic, they spend around 8-10 years of their lives being pregnant, which is a very long time to spend creating offspring!

The long gestation period, as well as the long period between consecutive births from a single elephant, can cause quite large generational gaps of between 20 years for these animals.

This has also been pointed to as a cause for the decline of elephant populations worldwide. Studies have shown that for every three elephant births, there have been five deaths annually. Infertility rates for zoo elephants have also gone up, increasing from 22% to nearly 45% in seven years.

Elephant running in jungle.

How big are baby elephants when born?

Elephants are huge in size; now, let's find out how big baby elephants are when they are born!

Baby elephants aren't the biggest land mammals for nothing! On average, baby elephants can weigh between 200-268 lb (91-122 kg) when they are born! They are also quite large, with their height at birth being around three feet (0.9 m). Asian elephant babies are usually smaller than the babies of African elephants. Male calves are slightly bigger and heavier than female calves.

When are elephant babies born?

The breeding period of elephants, as well as the time of birth of calves, can depend on the availability of food. This is usually not a problem for Asian elephants, and mating, as well as the birth of elephant babies, can take place throughout the year. However, in the case of African elephants, there may be food shortages at certain times during the year, mostly during the dry season. This greatly impacts the time at which baby elephants are born, which usually happens during the rainy season, when food is available.

This system ensures that a nursing female has enough nutrition to produce milk for her calf to suckle.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for 'How long is an elephant pregnant?' then why not take a look at 'How long do pugs live?' or 'Elephant facts'.

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Written by Tanya Parkhi

Bachelor of Arts specializing in Economics

Tanya Parkhi picture

Tanya ParkhiBachelor of Arts specializing in Economics

Tanya is a skilled content creator with a passion for writing and a love for exploring new cultures. With a degree in Economics from Fergusson College, Pune, India, Tanya worked on her writing skills by contributing to various editorials and publications. She has experience writing blogs, articles, and essays, covering a range of topics. Tanya's writing reflects her interest in travel and exploring local traditions. Her articles showcase her ability to engage readers and keep them interested.

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