Animal Info Elephants Family Life and Reproduction
About the family life and reproduction habits of elephants including herd and society behavior of the sexes.
Elephants live in a matriarchal society, and females have strong family ties. In the wild, they live in herds of from 10 to 50, depending on the availability of food and water. Herds can be as large as 100. They are usually led by the oldest cow, followed by other females, calves, and an occasional bull. Males are expelled from the herd when they reach puberty, at which time they either join other bulls or go off on their own.
Elephants conduct long, delicate courtships and are selective about their mates. In spite of their bulk--or maybe because of it--their couplings are usually very gentle.
The female carries her baby longer than any other animal--20 to 22 months--and has an average of four calves (rarely twins) during her lifetime. Devoted mothers, cows have been known to carry stillborn calves around on their tusks for days, grief-stricken. A newborn calf weighs about 200 lb. at birth and stands about 3 ft. tall.
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