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How Long Are Elephants Pregnant?

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Posted by Hayley Milliman | Dec 1, 2019 1:00:00 PM

General Education



Elephants are the largest land mammals in the world. There are two species of elephant: the African elephant (Loxodonta africana) and the Asian elephant (Elephas maximus). While the two species live in different places, they have many characteristics in common, including the duration of their pregnancies. But how long are elephants pregnant for? Read this guide to find out!


How Long Are Elephants Pregnant?

If you’re wondering, “how long are elephants pregnant?” you’ve likely heard that elephant pregnancies are rather remarkable because of their length. In fact, elephants have one of the longest gestation periods of all living species.

A gestation period is the time during which the fetus develops. It covers the time from the moment of conception until birth. For humans, the normal gestation period is nine months. The elephant gestation period, on the other hand, can last nearly two years (22 months).


Elephant Gestation Period: Quick Facts

An elephant’s pregnancy begins at the moment of conception. Female elephants are fertile three or four times per year. In the wild, male elephants will fight over a potential mate. In captivity, caretakers work to get female elephants pregnant during their fertilization period.

Once a female elephant is pregnant, the elephant gestation period officially begins. Here are some quick facts about elephant pregnancy:

  • Elephant pregnancies typically last around 22 months (almost two years!).

  • Elephant pregnancies are the longest of all mammals and one of the longest of all living animals.

  • One of the reasons elephant pregnancies are so long is because elephants are big. Due to their size, the development of elephants in the womb is slow.

  • Elephants are also highly intelligent. The long elephant gestation period allows the baby elephant’s brain to properly develop.


Elephant Pregnancy: Other Facts

Now that we know about an elephant’s gestation period, here are some other fun facts about elephant pregnancy.

  • Elephant calves typically weigh between 220 and 330 pounds at birth. No wonder they take so long to develop!

  • Elephants are born almost blind. It takes several weeks for their eyes to work properly.

  • Female elephants can give birth every four or five years.




Other Animals With Long Pregnancies

Elephants have one of the longest gestation periods of all animals. Here are ten other animals with long gestation periods:

  1. Black alpine salamanders: These amphibians live at high altitudes in the Central and Eastern Alps. Their pregnancies can last from two to three years.

  2. Sharks: Different species of sharks have different gestation periods. The spiny dogfish shark has a gestation period of two years. The frilled shark has a gestation period of 3.5 years.

  3. Tapirs: Closely related to horses and rhinos, tapir calves have a gestation period of up to thirteen months.

  4. Donkeys: Female donkeys are known as “Jennys” or “mares.” Their pregnancies can last up to 14 months.

  5. Manatees: These underwater mammals can carry their young for up to thirteen months.

  6. Camels: Camels don’t just carry water for a long time. Their typical gestation period is fourteen months.

  7. Giraffes: The tallest land animal in the world has a gestation period between 13 and 15 months (or 400 to 460 days).

  8. Velvet worm: This strange creature is neither made of velvet nor an actual worm: they are close relatives of spiders. Velvet worms carry their young for up to fifteen months.

  9. Rhinos: Perhaps unsurprisingly due to their size, rhinos have a long gestation period: typically around 15 months.

  10. Walruses: Walruses typically carry their young for as long as fifteen or sixteen months.


Elephant Pregnancy: Final Thoughts

Elephants have one of the longest gestation periods of any living species. Elephant gestation periods are typically 22 months long.


What’s Next?

Looking for more fun reads? Check out these true stories about David Ghantt and Aleister Crowley as well as this post on 1920's Fashion.

If you are looking for exciting, unique ideas for your next research paper, check out our list of 113 Great Research Paper Topics and 113 Persuasive Essay Topics. You can also read our narrative essay and argumentative essay examples!


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Hayley Milliman
About the Author

Hayley Milliman is a former teacher turned writer who blogs about education, history, and technology. When she was a teacher, Hayley's students regularly scored in the 99th percentile thanks to her passion for making topics digestible and accessible. In addition to her work for PrepScholar, Hayley is the author of Museum Hack's Guide to History's Fiercest Females.

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