C – Calf

C is for Calf

C is for Calf (nursing)

C is for Calf (walking)

C is for Calf (walking)

A calf is typically born when a female has been pregnant about 22 months (yes, almost 2 years). This is also called the gestation period. A calf learns to stand within minutes of birth, with assistance from its mother. It is critical for the calf to be able to reach its mom’s breast for milk. A calf nurses using its mouth because its trunk has no muscle tone initially.

Elephant birth is an exciting time for all the herd’s adults, they will trumpet and scream and release secretions down the sides of the face at the time of the birth.

For four or more years, the calf will continue to nurse. It will be weaned off its mother, particularly when it develops tusks that can irritate the mother or if the mother gives birth to a younger sibling. Calves tend to be very dependent on their mothers (for 3-5 years) and there is significant behavioral training given by the mother. A baby has about 30% of its future brain size so a significant amount of learning occurs during its early years through the mother and herd.

Although multiple females in a herd will provide caregiving to a calf, it is not all wine and roses for a newborn. As hierarchy is important to the group, a calf will learn its mother’s and other adults’ place in the pecking order. Soon enough, calves will start play fighting in order to test their strength, which they will eventually be required to do (as adult males finding mates). Female calves will remain with its mother’s herd for their entire lives but after a male has reached about 13 years, it will be forced to leave the herd. Then the male will either join a male group or tend to live alone, apart from mating.

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