You can thank Disney for that warm fuzzy feeling in your stomach whenever you see baby elephants. After all, it’s likely that you first fell in love with the little ones while watching Dumbo. Unlike with some other animals, though, you may not know much about elephant offspring. So, today, enjoy a few interesting facts about these mysterious creatures.
1. A Baby Elephant Takes a While to Develop in the Womb
The elephant’s gestation period is one of the longest among mammals, but there is a slight difference between how long African and Asian elephants stay pregnant. Asian elephants carry their offspring for about 18 to 22 months, whereas African elephants give birth after 22 months.
Baby elephants have a bit of a rough start as the mothers give birth while standing. Since the mother is so tall, the baby inevitably drops to the ground.
At first, the baby won’t see all too well. However, this doesn’t pose much of a problem, as it can recognize its mother by sound, touch, and scent.
2. A Baby Elephant Is Called a Calf
Similar to other animals, like cats (kittens) and dogs (puppies), baby elephants are actually called calves. As they reach adulthood, the females become cows while the males mature into bull elephants.
3. Unsurprisingly, the Calf Is Quite Big at Birth
On average, newborn elephants are about 3 feet tall and weigh about 264 pounds. However, newborn male African elephant calves can weigh up to 100 pounds more. In contrast, newborn Asian calves usually weigh around 200 pounds.
4. Baby Elephants Are Usually Born at Night
Wild elephants often give birth at night after being in labor for several days. Most believe this is because, at nighttime, they can enjoy a calm environment.
5. Calves Can Walk Almost Immediately
Within mere minutes of dropping onto the ground at birth, the baby elephant is already able to stand. Even more impressive, the calf can walk within an hour or two, and after two days, it shouldn’t have any trouble keeping up with its herd.
6. Baby Elephants Depend on Their Mothers and Relatives a Lot
In order for a calf to develop properly, it needs constant guidance provided by its mother, aunts, sisters, and other females in the herd. Luckily, elephants are quite affectionate with their babies and eager to help them find their way. Thus, the whole herd even adjusts its pace so that the youngsters can keep up.
For the first six months of its life, a baby elephant will have to keep nursing, drinking about 20 to 21 pints of milk on average every day. However, when it is about four to six months old, it will start using its trunk for food. The calf will naturally start picking grass and leaves with its trunk, thus slowly weaning itself off milk.
Nevertheless, baby elephants aren’t weaned until they’re at least over two years old. They may be fully weaned once they are three years old, though some continue suckling for longer.
7. Baby Elephants Suck Their Trunks Just Like Babies Suck Their Thumbs
Finally, adorable elephant calves don’t usually know what to do with their trunks, so they might even step on them on occasion. Strangely enough, they also like sucking their trunks for comfort, with older elephants even doing it when they’re upset or nervous.
This behavior also lets baby elephants learn how to manipulate and control the muscles in the trunk. Later on, this helps them survive in the wild, as they use their trunks to meet their basic needs.