Elephants are one of the very few mammals that are led by females. These social animals live together in herds with other female elephants and follow the matriarch while the male elephants live away from the herds.
What exactly do female elephants do in their herds? Take a look at the fun facts about elephants and the essential role females elephants play.
What is a female elephant called?
What do cows and cattle have in common with elephants? Both are herbivorous, but they have another thing in common. They share the same terminology for female, male and babies.
From when an elephant is born until their teen years, a baby elephant is called a calf.
Once it reaches adulthood, the female and male elephants are known by different terms. A male elephant is called a bull elephant, and a female elephant is a cow.
The appearance of a female elephant
When it comes to the appearance of a female elephant, there are some differences between them and bull elephants. An elephant cow is smaller in size. An adult female elephant can reach a height between 9 and 13 feet and they can weigh 6,000 to 8,000 pounds.
Besides their height and weight, elephant cows have smaller tusks than elephant bulls. A female elephant's tusks can weigh 40 pounds each while a male elephant's tusks can weigh between 110 and 175 pounds.
A female elephant's early life
From birth, an elephant baby (calf) will stick by its mother's side. The calf relies on its mother for food and guidance. They drink their mother's milk until they reach 10 years old.
During the early stage of their life, baby elephants need to stay with their mothers to learn about the herd's behavior. One of the fun facts about elephants is that calves are like humans and they absorb and learn from their surroundings.
A female elephant's teen years
Once baby calves reach their teen years, the female and male elephants start to go different ways. The male elephants begin to leave their mother's herd to group with other teen elephants.
The female elephants stay with their mother's herd and start to take responsibility. Female elephants begin to take an interest in taking care of the newborn elephants in their herd. This interest teaches and prepares them for when they have their babies.
When female elephants enter their adult years, they are called cows. Elephant cows stay together in their mother's herd and follow the lead of a matriarch elephant. A female elephant becomes the matriarch typically because they are the oldest and largest in the herd. When the matriarch dies, the closest relative takes the position.
The other female elephants then follow the lead of that matriarch. They learn and take care of the elephant offspring. An elephant cow reaches sexual maternity when it is 10 or 12 years old. These animals choose their mate. Typically, a female elephant chooses an older and strong bull.
One of the fun facts about elephants many people probably don’t know is that they do not mate for life. Over the course of time, elephant cows can have multiple mates in the wild. A female elephant's pregnancy lasts for 22 months. After the elephant is born, it stays by its side and teaches it everything it will need to know to survive. Thus, the cycle starts again!
As you read above, a female elephant plays a critical role in building elephant families. At For Elephants, we are researching to increase an elephant's fertility rates and prevent "captive extinction.” You can help us save the elephants with a small donation to our research. Donate or shop our For Elephants t-shirts.