Nature

25 Incredible Animal Births That Both Amaze and Disgust

By Mark Hand - September 06, 2018

For us, it’s a sign that we’re messed up. But when it comes to how Mother Nature treats some of her other animal friends, getting dropped on the head is also known as “being born.” Considering how unceremoniously some of these animals enter the world, it’s astounding how quickly they’re up and at ’em.

1. The Hedgehog:

Credits: A newborn hedgehog: a ball of spikes waiting to happen.

When a baby hedgehog (called either a hoglet or piglet) enters the world, it’s a tiny, blind ball of spikes waiting to be unleashed.

That’s because when it’s born, sharp protuberances-in-waiting are tucked just underneath the skin. Within a few hours of exiting its mother womb and as it’s surrounded by upwards of six siblings, a hoglet’s signature quills will start to make their debut.

It’s a slow start to what will become the hoglet’s key defense mechanism as an adult, as 150 slightly dulled quills break through the skin and begin increasing in numbers until the hedgehog has 8,500 of them.

Hoglets are blind for the first month of their life, but that doesn’t stop them from wrestling with their brothers and sisters over a prime spot at mom’s milk bar. White as snow when they are born, the hoglets will also begin taking on the physical appearance of an adult hedgehog with the darkening of their quills.

These little spiked bundles of cuteness will stay with mom for anywhere from six to thirteen weeks, at which point they bid a fond farewell to their family unit and move out into the waiting world.

Sources: Do hedgehogs have spikes when they’re born?, Hedgehog

2. The Giraffe:

Credits: A baby giraffe enters the world with a thud. Photo: Ayesha Cantor/Caters News

We know giraffes are not a small animal, and females can reach heights pushing almost 5 meters (16 feet).

It’s one of the reasons when, after a gestation period of upwards of 15 months, a baby giraffe gets welcomed into the world by being unceremoniously dropped 1.5 meters (5 feet) onto its noggin. It’s the cruel price to be paid for having long legs that allow a giraffe to reach speeds of almost 64 km/h (40mph) as an adult.

This fall does serve a purpose, breaking the amniotic sac and severing the umbilical cord at the same time. A giraffe calf is on its feet within minutes, although the graceful walk of its mother takes a little longer to develop.

Much of a giraffe’s pregnancy is done as discreetly as possible since out in the wild and surrounded by predators it’s the smart move to avoid looking like a slow target carrying up to 68 kilograms (150 pounds) of extra baby weight.

Giraffe labor is not a quick process and can take days before the calf being born. This includes having the incoming arrival’s hooves popping out as the official visible sign that a birth is underway. Because of the giraffe’s long gestation period, the fully-developed calf is born ready to stand, eat, run and stay out of the way of lions and tigers.

Sources: 10 Things You Don’t Know About Giraffe Pregnancy, Labor, And Newborns, Giraffe: Frequently Asked Questions

3. The Sea Otter:

Credits: It's a wet welcome for sea otter pups born on the water.

It’s not that a female sea otter isn’t great at multitasking, but when it comes to looking after its offspring it likes to focus all of its attention on only one pup at a time.

It’s a rule that is strictly adhered to, so in the rare event of twins being born after a seven-month gestation cycle, mom will pick the one she thinks is strongest and abandon the other. It sounds cruel, and considering the sea otter’s close calls with extinction over the past century a little wasteful, but orphaned pups do have a chance for survival thanks to rescue agencies.

Weighing in at approximately 2.25 kg (5 lbs), pups are born on the water covered in fur called ‘natal pelage’ that acts as a natural lifejacket and helps keep a pup afloat.

They may look like they have a layer of blubber to help keep them warm during their time on the water, but sea otters are completely blubber-free. Instead, as a pup matures it will start to grow up to one million hairs per 6.5 centimeters (one inch) of its body surface.

For five to eight months, pups will stick close to their mother, feeding on fatty milk as they are slowly introduced to the staples of the sea otter diet such as crabs, clams, sea urchins and abalone.

Sources: Sea Otter Frequently Asked Questions, Frequently Asked Questions about Sea Otters

4. The Rhinoceros:

Credits: Thankfully for mother rhinos their offspring have no horn when born. Photo: US Department of State

After a gestation period that can last for up to 18 months depending on the species, an expectant rhino will give birth to a calf that can weigh anywhere from 25 to 45 kilograms (55 to 100 pounds).

It’s a whole lot of baby to look after, and despite it being delivered with a bit of an unceremonious thud is on its legs and taking its first few tentative steps within minutes. It’s that ability to quickly master the art of walking that allows a calf to begin suckling its mother after a few hours out of the womb. Mother’s milk will be a key component of a young calf’s diet for the next 18 months, but during that time it will be introduced to the plants and vegetation that will form its adult diet.

With no horn at birth, the mother rhino acts like an all-natural tank for its child. Wild rhinos are known for being solitary animals, but the mother and calf form a tight bond in the three years they are together. Female calves will stay with their mom a little longer than males, but as soon as a young rhino heads out on its own the main focus is finding a territory to call home.

A female rhino will not mate while it’s tending to its calf, and it is not uncommon for males in the region to kill a young rhino so that it can mate with the mother.

Sources: Rhino giving birth and caring for her calf!, Rhinos – Birth And Care Of The Young

5. The Seahorse:

Credits: The seahorse young enter the world as tiny projectiles. Photo: Meaghan Abele/Youtube

Besides the astounding visual aspect of a seahorse giving birth (imagine 2000 tiny Sea Monkey-esque young ‘uns catapulted into the world at the same time), seahorses like to think outside the traditional pregnancy box by giving males the honor of carrying his life partner’s eggs in a pouch on his belly. The male seahorse has unfertilized eggs in this pouch, where he does one of his roles in the reproductive process by fertilizing them.

That pouch isn’t just about hauling eggs around, either. It’s an organ that acts like a thermostat controlling temperature and water salinity, all while turning on genes that can carry nutrients and bolster his immune system. While dad is working with the young, mom is busy producing more eggs. Once dad gives birth, he’s set to fertilize more eggs within hours, and the process repeats throughout the seahorse mating season.

Sources: Pregnant Poppas: the Underknown Sex Life of the Male Seahorse, What Really Happens When Male Seahorses Are Pregnant

6. The Zebra:

Credits: A zebra foal is all legs. Photo: Seasons in Africa

Like other animals with long gestation periods, a baby zebra (called a foal) enters the world a little clumsy but ready to get to the business of surviving in the wilds of Africa. When a foal is born after 11 to 12 months in its mother’s womb, its mom may still only be a youngster herself — zebras can become pregnant by the time they are a year old.

Those instances are not commonplace since it is believed the female zebra doesn’t reach full sexual maturity until it is four years old, but two-year-old zebra mothers (or dams) have been spotted in the wild.

Foals are born, usually at night to avoid predators, with legs that are nearly the size of an adult zebra. Usually social animals that favor safety in numbers, a dam in labor will temporarily leave the herd to give birth.

After an hour of awkward first steps, a young zebra is ready to join the rest of its mother’s herd, which is usually under the rule of a dominant stallion. Foals will stay with their mother for 16 months, pregnant or not.

Sources: Zebra Facts, Zebra Breeding Facts

7. The Seal:

Credits: For the mother seal and her pup it's all about smell.

During the breeding season for seals, males (bulls) can get a little ornery. Females are instinctively drawn to dominant, stronger bulls, who assert their hormonal authority by mating with as many females as possible.

How strong is this instinct for the fellas? A bull won’t leave the breeding grounds for anything — even to feed. Sex first, food later. Seals can reproduce in water or on land, but the birthing process is always on land and usually at the same breeding grounds where conception took place.

After a 9-to-10-month-long pregnancy, a single pup is born. What comes next is an action that is critical to the survival of the pup — the mother spins around to smell its offspring and allow the pup to smell her.

The pup also gets a few maternal calls directed its way, sounds that it will use as vocal beacons as it grows. Should the new mom not recognize the smell of her pup, she will set aside her natural instinct to feed it and leave it to starve.

If the pup passes the smell test, it can begin helping itself to milk from their mother. To help build up blubber, the milk is extremely fatty, and for one month following the birth the pup feasts while its mother stays by its side and doesn’t indulge in any food at all. Once mom leaves for a food run, the pup is on its own.

It’ll have ingested enough milk to keep it going for approximately two weeks, at which point it instinctually heads to the water to feed.

Sources: Seal Breeding and Reproduction, The seal’s life cycle

8. The Marine Turtle:

Credits: Laying their eggs is the easiest part of the reproductive process for female marine turtles. Photo: Sarah Dawsey/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Most species of marine turtles need to make a birthing pilgrimage to lay their eggs on land, and when you take an animal designed for life in the open water and stick it on a beach to deposit 100 eggs, it can be an extremely demanding process. Pregnant females drag themselves, usually under the cover of darkness, across their beach of choice to the high tide line.

It’s a tedious journey that can take several hours, since this figurative fish out of water has to adapt to a cruel, dry world where flippers and a massive shell on your back don’t do you any favors.

Once a spot is selected where soft sand can be moved, digging begins. As her flippers fling sand in all directions, a female will produce tears to wash away anything caught in her eyes.

What is created is a burrow called a brood chamber, where leathery, golf ball-sized eggs are deposited. When she’s done, the eggs are covered with more sand and mom begins the slow trek back to the ocean.

After a month, the baby turtles begin to hatch, using the only tooth they will ever have in their life to break through their surrounding shell. After crawling out from under the sand, the hatchlings point themselves in the direction of the water and start the march to their underwater domain.

Sources: Marine Turtles: Reproduction, Sea Turtles

9. The Dolphin:

Credits: For newborn dolphins, mom's slipstream is vital.

Dolphin mothers have their hands (you can substitute fins in there if you’d rather) full from the time of conception and for years after their calf is born.

First off, dolphins don’t stick to a biological clock breeding season routine. Any time, any place — dolphin lovin’ is always a possibility. After a 12-month gestation period, a calf weighing between 11 to 18 kilograms (25-40 pounds) is born underwater, usually tail-first. Roughly 1.2 meters (4 feet) long, a dolphin calf comes out of the womb already pre-programmed to understand basic scientific principles. How so?

A calf will immediately assume what’s referred to as the echelon position, which sees it swimming alongside its mother in her slipstream. The calf gets to keep pace with its mother while not having to put forth as much physical effort.

Dolphin mothers in the wild with healthy babies have been observed acting more relaxed than a mother nursing a struggling calf. Speaking of nursing, it’s something a newborn will frequently do throughout the average day.

It is thought calves can use their tongues to form an air-tight funnel that milk can flow through and avoid any water getting into the mix. In the midst of all of this, there’s also that blowhole on top of its head a calf needs to figure out how to use. Like any newborn, dolphin calves can be on the clumsy side. This can result in younger dolphins getting used to their blowhole misjudging distances to the water’s surface and sticking their whole head out for a breath of fresh air.

Source: Dolphin Maternity

10. The Panda:

Credits: For how large they eventually become, pandas start life incredibly tiny. Photo: Atlanta Zoo

When spring rolls around, it’s time for panda mating season.

A panda pregnancy can last anywhere from 100 to 180 days and result in one or two very tiny cubs being born in a den safe from the outside world. Despite an adult panda’s large size, its offspring can fit in the palm of your hand. Cubs usually weigh in at 85 to 142 grams (three to five ounces) and resemble blind puffs of cotton that can poop more than their mother.

For the first sixty days of its life, a panda cub doesn’t leave the den. In the case of twin cubs being born, the mother will do her best to take care of both (including constant grooming), but if one starts to show signs of struggle it can be abandoned in favor of its stronger sibling. After eight weeks a cub will open its eyes, and continue nursing over the year as it gains upwards of 34 kilograms (75 pounds) of weight.

It’s not until it reaches three months in age that a cub will be strong enough to crawl. As nursing continues, the mother will introduce bamboo into the diet, and by the time its first birthday rolls around a panda cub is usually fully weaned.

Sources: New Born Pandas, Baby Panda

11. The Duck-billed Platypus:

Credits: What kind of mammal lays eggs? This one. Photo: Wiki Commons

The platypus is usually up there on any list of incredible animals, it’s just that sort of creature. Just about everything about it screams rule-breaker. It’s a mammal, like us, which means that among other things it’s warm-blooded and the female nurses its young with milk.

But it’s also one of the very few members of the monotreme group of mammals, which means that it is oviparous: it is not born like you were, it was hatched from an egg.

Source: Why Odd Egg-Laying Mammals Still Exist

12. The African Cichlid:

Credits: Motherhood is a mouthful for the African cichlid. Source: Djgreenmonkey

Most parents want what’s best for their kids, and will do whatever it takes to help and protect them. Some parents take this to an extreme. Like, for example, the mouthbrooding African cichlids.

These fish figure the safest place for their young is in their mouths, so the mommy keeps them there after her eggs have been laid. Sometimes she even keeps them safe in her mouth after they’ve hatched, too. Now that’s helicopter parenting.

Source: The Protective Mouthbrooding Fish

13. The Hammerhead Shark:

Credits: Hammerhead sharks are big fans of virgin births. Photo: Wiki Commons

If you thought that immaculate conceptions are only for messiahs, prepare to be amazed. As it turns out, virgin births can also happen to sharks. It’s called parthenogenesis, and it is more or less like giving birth to a clone of yourself because you combine the DNA from a couple of eggs to make one zygote with the right number of chromosomes and… poof!.

Pregnant with no daddy. There are species of geckos and lizards that do it and a few others, but the coolest example has to be the shark. Because hey, we want to make sure there will always be shark week.

Source: Virgin Birth in a Hammerhead Shark

14. The Surinam Toad:

Credits: When you take piggybacking one step too far... Photo: Wiki Commons

There isn’t an award for the worst animal in the world, but if there was, we’d have our winner right here. Why? One reason: the Surinam toad gestates its young in the flesh of its own back. It’s just gross. The eggs are laid, then the male shoves them into the mom’s back with his mouth where she absorbs them into her skin.

There, the little brood of nasties grow for about four months before digging their way out again as fully formed baby toads. It’s just awful and it makes my skin crawl and I have to move on to the next animal before I…

Source: Surinam Toad Childbirth: Trypophobics Need Not Apply

15. The Hyena:

Credits: Hyenas push their babies through their pseudo-penises.

So hyenas are weird animals. The females have a penis. Well, not really. Technically it’s a clitoris that can grow up to almost 18 centimeters (7 inches) long, so it only looks like one. That she pees through. Totally not a penis, though, because there’s one thing that the female hyena does with her not-a-penis that actual penises absolutely cannot do: she gives birth through it. Yes, through it.

We won’t even get into how she gets pregnant in the first place, but just focus on how horrible it must be to squeeze a baby hyena out of your penis-like peepee hole. But as you weep for the mommy hyena, maybe share a tear or two for the babies, over half of whom suffocate to death while trying to be born because the not-a-penis opening is so very small and poorly built for, you know, birthing through.

Source: The birth of hyena cubs: The good, the bad and the gory

16. The Kangaroo:

Credits: Kangaroo joeys are all about living the pouch life. Photo: Alamy

Marsupials aren’t normal. Right from day one, these creatures have a strange life. It’s pretty easy, compared to suffocating in a pseudophallus, but still strange. A few months after conception, the embryonic kangaroo baby emerges from the kangaroo mommy’s womb like a little pink lima bean.

Deaf and blind and honestly not really done cooking, it has to find its way into mom’s pouch by sort of climbing, sort of wriggling up her fur. Once there, it can spend another few months suckling on the pouch nipple and growing into a proper little roo, which as we all know is called a joey.

Source: Kangaroos are baby-making machines

17. The Pot-Bellied Pig:

Credits: The strategy for these newborn piglets: find a teat and avoid being crushed by mom. Photo: Wiki Commons

Pot-bellied pigs are big enough, but when pregnant, they are enormous. They are so big their many teats drag along the ground, which is not the worst thing that will happen to those things: wait until the babies are born. Then it will be pure teat punishment.

Gestation is only about four months, after which up to a dozen hungry piglets will shoot out like fat little teat-loving projectiles. They need to be quick, not only to beat their siblings to the teats, but also to avoid being squashed by their obese mother. Oh, and one more thing: teats.

Source: Pregnancy in a Potbellied Pig

18. The Orangutan:

Credits: Almost human. Almost. Photo: Brett Jordan/Pexels

Orangutans are practically human. Genetically-speaking, we have 97% of the same DNA. The similarities carry over into a lots of things, including reproduction. They have a monthly menstrual cycle, they gestate babies for 9 months, and they deliver in more or less the same way as humans.

Except for one thing: they eat the amniotic sac right off their baby and lick them clean. And they don’t use epidurals, either, but mostly it’s the sac eating and baby licking that will clue you in that the lady in the next bed at the maternity ward is actually an orangutan.

Source: Orangutan Birth and Care of Young

19. The Llama:

Credits: Llama mothers deliver big packages. Photo: Wiki Commons

Llamas are practically born ready to have babies, which are called crias. Female llamas can get pregnant as early as four to six months of age. Hell, they gestate for about year, which means that a one-and-a-half-year-old llama could be pregnant for two-thirds of her young life. And then it’s nothing but trauma because a baby llama weighs somewhere between 8 and 18 kilograms (18-40 pounds) at birth, which can’t be easy to deliver.

And after that? Your female llama is likely to do it all over again, because the act of copulation makes her ovulate. So not only are llamas born ready, but they also spend most of their lives pregnant. Ouch.

Source: Birthing & Cria Care

20. The Camel:

Credits: Thank goodness for flat humps. Photo: Stepnout / Flickr

A baby camel has a flat hump when it’s first born, maybe to help with the whole squeezing out of its mother thing. After all, it’s hard enough to deliver an 18 kilogram (40 pound) baby after being pregnant for over a year, especially one that comes out head and feet first and is ready to start walking within an hour. Having a hump get in the way would just be cruel.

Source: Camels: Facts, Types & Pictures

21. The Elephant:

Credits: An elephant birth is no small feat, at any stage. Photo: Wiki Commons

When an elephant cow gets pregnant, it’s a commitment. It starts with having a bull’s nearly one-meter (three-feet)-long, 14.5 centimeter (sixteen inch) diameter penis inside you. Then you gestate for nearly two years. And at the end of all that, you have to deliver a 91 kilogram (200 pound), one-meter (three-foot)-tall baby elephant that will nurse for the next three or four years. If it’s a girl, she’ll stay with your herd for the rest of her life, but if it’s a boy he will most likely roam off on his own as he gets older.

Source: How Do Elephants Give Birth?

22. The Naked Mole Rat:

Credits: The bigger a naked mole rat gets, the more offspring it can pop out. Photo: Jedimentat44/Flickr

Naked mole rats are awful. They’re not quite as gross as the Surinam toad, but they’re awful just the same. They live in colonies with a single queen. This queen is the only female that breeds. She does this until another female decides she wants the job and steps up and kills the former queen. The new queen may then start having litters of around ten to fifteen gross little naked mole rat babies at a time.

But as she grows older the queen’s bones also keep growing, and this allows her litters to get bigger and bigger. By the time she gets assassinated by a new queen, she’ll be able to pop out over 30 pups the size of a kidney bean at a time. That’s a record for any mammal.

Source: Unusual Reproductive Life Of The Naked Mole-Rat

23. Prehensile-Tailed Porcupine:

Credits: Look to the trees if want to see one of these soon-to-be prickly babies being born. Photo: Wiki Commons

We’ve heard about some pretty horrible things to give birth to, but none of them came out of the womb covered in quills. The prehensile-tailed porcupine (aka coendous) does. Now, the quills are soft and only harden once they get out in the open air, but imagine if the baby is breech and those quills have to come out pointy end first. Ouch.

And if that wasn’t bad enough, these porcupines give birth up in a tree. So it’s bad for the mom, and it’s bad for the baby whose first act after being born is to cling for dear life to a tree while its umbilical comes off. Life can be hard.

Source: Prehensile-tailed porcupine

24. The Tenrec:

Credits: The tenrec can't make up its mind as to what it wants to be. Photo: Wiki Commons

The poor little tenrec just doesn’t know what it is. It looks like a shrew, but isn’t. It has spines like a hedgehog, but it’s not really like those either. The spines aren’t like a porcupine either, because they aren’t barbed and don’t come out. But they are similar to the porcupine because their babies are born with spines.

The big difference there is the mommy porcupine only has to worry about one spiny baby coming out,  while the tenrec can have up to ten babies in a single litter, and that’s a lot of pointy bits to deal with.

Source: Keeping and Breeding Tenrecs

25. The Kiwi:

Credits: For kiwi birds, it's all about going big or staying home. Photo: Wiki Commons

Kiwis are odd little flightless birds that, like a lot of animals you find in Australia and New Zealand, just do not make sense. Its eggs are just enormous, relatively speaking. It can take up 25 percent of its mother’s body, which would be like a chicken laying a half kilogram (one pound) egg or a human giving birth to a 4-year-old child.

Source: Ouch! Kiwi Birds Lay Eggs a Quarter of Their Body Size

Check out the video.

[video_shortcode]