6 Reasons Elephant Moms Are the Best Mothers

An elephant mom is very nurturing and protective of her offspring, especially in the earliest stages of their lives. Their babies can usually be found hovering underneath them. Often, other females in the herd rally to assist the mother in ensuring that the youngest members are protected. The young are allowed to explore, but when they do encounter the dangers within their habitats, their mothers are quick to intervene.

Elephant mama and baby_Asian elephants


Elephant parents allow their children more flexibility and choices rather than providing definitive and strict guidelines to follow. They may rock their children to sleep where some animal parents don't have that emotional intelligence to understand and connect with their babies.

Elephant moms are there every step of the way and they help their young ones navigate through challenging situations. They also encourage their calves to be whoever they want to be. If you've ever noticed, in the beginning, elephant calves are very shy and they hang around close to mom, but as their moms encourage exploration, they start to get curious and they begin to mirror mothers actions.


Six Reasons Elephant Mothers are the Best

They may look big and imposing, but elephant moms are actually some of the best moms in the animal kingdom. These big softies do everything from nursing for years to staying close to their babies for life.

1. Females are the Boss

In elephant families females are the head of the household, so to speak. Usually, the older, experienced female elephant leads their herd and they are known as Matriarchs. A family usually consists of a mother, her sisters, daughters their babies (calves). Notice there are no male roles listed there. We will get to that explanation later in this blog post. Occasionally, non-related elephants join others to form families. Female family units range from three to twenty-five elephants.

Sometimes herds of female elephants combine with groups of bull elephants to form larger clans of sometimes 500 to 1000 elephants. But usually, they travel and live in smaller herds, all focused on protecting the young.

Motherhood Shirt from Elefootprints
Buy this Cute Motherhood T-shirt from Ele Footprints

2. They Babysit the Youth of the Herd

Female elephants help look after each other’s calves. Babysitting other calves is important for elephant development. Young females learn how to look after the babies before they have their own. The survival rate of these babies increases when more females are present and willing to care for them.

3. The Bond is Strong and they Stay Together

Elephants are known to develop strong, intimate bonds between friends and family members. They can often be seen using their trunks to give “hugs” and “kisses"; something elephant mamas never run out of. There have been reports of elephants forming lifelong friendships with each other, and they even mourn the death of their loved ones. Mama elephants have been seen grieving over stillborn calves, and some elephants often return to, or linger around locations where their loved one(s) died.

A female elephant will typically live and roam with her mom until she dies. Male elephants stay with their moms through many years of nurturing before going off on their own.

mama and baby elephants in the savanna_Photo by Hu Chen on Unsplash
African Bush Elephants - Mama and Baby Elephants

4. They Walk in a Single File

The Jungle Book was a pretty accurate adaptation of the migration pattern of elephants. They really do walk in a single file line when they are on the move. For instance, while in search of food and water, the calves will sometimes hold on to their mother’s tails with their trunks to keep up, while other female elephants surround them to protect them from danger.

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5. They are Usually Single Parents

Adult male elephants typically live a nomadic life of solitude. When a male elephant reaches puberty, around 12 to 15 years of age, he will gradually become more independent of his family. He will eventually break away completely to either roam alone or find a loosely-knit group of male elephants to join.

Herds of bulls have a hierarchical structure, with the strongest and most experienced elephants leading and protecting the group; very similar to the female herds. When a male is ready to mate, he will pursue an elephant family until he selects a female and she accepts him. Once he has mated with a cow, he’ll either return to his herd or resume his solitary existence, leaving the cow to rear the calf by herself. But don't worry, she usually has plenty of help from the other ladies.


Elephants grazing - via GIPHY

6. Herds Can Separate

Although they tend to be close, an elephant family can split. This decision is influenced by ecological factors, such as the amount of food and water available in the area. Social factors, such as how well the elephants get along, the size of the group, or the death of a matriarch may also cause a split.

Even if they split from their families who helped raise them, elephants still keep in touch. These bonded groups communicate through rumbling calls and usually stay within a mile of each other.

Model wearing Elephant Bracelet-Elefootprints
Model wearing Elephant Bracelet-Elefootprints


Why We Love Elephant Moms

Asian elephant with baby elephant Thailand_Photo by Katie Hollamby_resized
Asian Elephant Baby Hovering under Elephant Mom while Grazing

Elephant moms are the best because these massive females endure nearly 2 years of pregnancy. The long gestation period allows the elephant babies to be born ready to survive in the wild. Elephant mothers and babies don't get much rest following the birth because they have to keep up with the elephant herd for protection. The calves are initially born blind, forcing them to rely on their trunks for navigation and discovery, but fortunately, the other females step up and help out. Once the baby is born, the other "ladies" in the herd all lend a helping hand, including grandmothers, sisters, aunts, and even cousins. These full-time babysitters are called "Allomothers," and they help in every aspect of rearing the young calves. So in this case, it really does take a village to raise an elephant!

Organic Elephant Bamboo Cutting Board 
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