1. The Hedgehog:
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:
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:
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:
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