The Best Mums of the Animal Kingdom

As Mother's Day is just around the corner we thought we'd gather a list of the best mums in the animal Kingdom. Some of these animal mothers go above and beyond to look after their young and make sure they get a good start in a very tough world.


Highly intelligent orangutans are some of the best animal mums out there. Every single night of her life the female orangutan can be found high up in a tree, building a new nest and creating over 30,000 homes for her and her young in the course of her lifetime. When her baby is born it is entirely dependant on her for the first two years of its life for transport and food. The young orangutan is then nursed by its mother for another 4-5 years making this 6-7 years of child-raring one of the longest in the animal world. However her job isn't completely over yet as it has been known for female orangutans to visit their mother until they reach the age of 16!

Polar Bear

Not only is a female polar bear the ultimate single mum, due to male polar bears being the 'dine and dash' type, but she also severely hikes up her bodyweight during pregnancy. The reason for her 400lb increase in body weight is purely maternal as if she doesn't put on enough extra fat then her body will resorb the fetuses. However the mother Polar Bear does have one of the easiest births on the planet; she digs a den and sleeps for two months, including while her cubs are born! The cubs are kept warm and healthy by their mother's body heat and milk and then she digs them out, where the temperature can be around -40°C, and begins to teach them the survival skills that take two years to learn.


Giving birth to a calf after 22 months of pregnancy, that averages 200lb, is no mean feat and is the first of many reasons why the elephant makes it onto our list. Female elephants also have to very carefully look after their young just after birth as they are born blind and rely on their trunks to help them learn about the world. However living in a matriarchal society does have its perks as not only does the mother look after her calf, but her grandmother, aunts, sisters and even cousins will keep an eye on the calf. They will even help guide the new calf just after birth so it can nurse from its mother.


Being a Cheetah mum is hard. Raising their two to six cubs in isolation is no picnic, especially as she has to move them to a new den every four days to avoid them being eaten by predators. To top things off, cheetah cubs are born with little to no survival instinct so their mum has to teach them how to hunt prey and avoid predators. This training can take up to two years to properly sink in and at this point the cubs move on from their mother and start a sibling group that they all stay part of for six months and then the females leave to start their own solitary journey.

Emperor Penguin

Weather-hardy Emperor Penguins breed almost exclusively on sea ice in the Depths of Antarctic winter where temperatures can range from -20°C to -50°C. The Mother lays her egg in May or June and gives it over to the care of the father. She then walks and swims anywhere up to 50 miles to reach open water so that she can feed on fish, squid and krill and then return to her egg. This journey can take anywhere in the region of two months to complete and when she returns her chick will be hatched and the mother penguin will need to regurgitate the food she ate on her long journey to sustain the chick.

Red-knobbed hornbills

These determined mothers know that their eggs are the preferred food of Monitor Lizards so they go to extreme measures to protect their unhatched young. Female Red-Knobbed Hornbills chose a hole in a tree as their nest, lay their eggs and then seal the entrance with their own faeces. The mother Red-knobbed Hornbill will then stay inside her nest for the entire incubation period which lasts on an average of two months. During this time she will not eat and will instead ignore her own hunger pains and starvation in order to protect her babies.

Giant Pacific Octopus

With a lifetime ambition of having one successful brood the female Giant Pacific Octopus does not mess around when it comes to motherhood. She will lay over 100,000 eggs which take about 40 days to develop before hatching and during this time the mother octopus stays close to protect them. During this time she does not make time to hunt so is nearly starved to death and may go as far as to eat one of her own arms rather than leave her eggs. Once hatched the offspring float away and the mother is free but unfortunately often falls prey to predators as she is too weak to defend herself.

Harp Seals

Giving birth to a pup that is almost a meter long and weighs around 24lb is no easy thing, especially as most Harp Seal do this on melting pack ice that also happens to be the home of hungry polar bears. After birth the mother gives up any self indulgent activities, like eating, in order to care for her pup. During this time she feeds the pup on milk that contains up to 60% fat which helps then gain on average 5lb a day while the mother loses an average of 7lb a day. This weaning period lasts for 12 days and during this time the mother can identify her pup from hundreds of others by their smell alone.

Humpback Whales

The pregnant females of this large species will prepare herself for birth by eating everything she can in Alaska to build up her blubber layer and then she will migrate 3000 miles to Hawaii. She does this as the waters she migrates to are warmer and have less predators that will threaten her calf. Once her 1-2 ton calf is born she will nurse the baby with 100 gallons of milk per day even though by this point she will not have eaten in months. She will spend ample time preparing her calf and making sure it is well fed before they migrate back to the colder feeding grounds.


After three and a half months of pregnancy a lioness will often give birth to four cubs at a time. For the first six weeks of her cubs' life she will spend most of her time away from the pride as she hides her young cubs in dense bush to keep them safe. During this time the cubs are completely dependent on her for food and protection from other predators. After six weeks she returns to the pride with her cubs where they can start to eat meat, but she will nurse them until they are about seven months old. She will also teach them skills such as hunting which can take a long time, so her cubs will remain dependant on here for two years.


If you think that your mum goes above and beyond these animal mums (how long were you dependant on her?) then why not take a look at our great Mother's Day Gifts?