How Prolific were the Animals from the Ark?

Article #27

Noah and his family were saved from a horrific world-wide catastrophe by riding out the global upheaval in the Ark, but so were the animals. Besides people, who were created in the image of God, animals are the most amazingly complex and precious “things” that exist in the material universe. Animals were precious to God and were certainly precious to the Flood survivors, because without animals, life would have been more difficult, if not impossible. So what happened to the animals after the Flood?

Eight people survived the Flood, as well as two of each animal, or was it seven, or was it fourteen? It depends. You see, long before the law of Moses, in fact 900 years before Moses, God told Noah to distinguish between clean and unclean animals. No reason was given to us, but unclean animals have traditionally included dogs, cats, rabbits, pigs, camels, crows, hawks, owls, and bears. Only two of each, a male and a female, went into the Ark. Seven of the clean animals went into the Ark, or was it fourteen?

Clean animals included cows, sheep, goats, chickens, oxen, elk, deer, doves, ducks, pigeons, quail, turkeys, antelopes, gazelle, ibex, moose, giraffes, reindeers, etc. Some, like the horse, are uncertain. According to the King James Version, God told Noah to “take to thee by sevens, the male and his female” (Genesis 7:2). The Hebrew text literally says “seven seven”, which has led some translations to use “seven pair”, which makes fourteen. In either case, clean animals were more numerous than unclean animals, and all were scarce and near extinction. It was essential that all the animals find food and a proper habitat, and that they multiply quickly. God intended for them to “breed abundantly in the earth, and be fruitful, and multiply upon the earth” (Genesis 8:17). But could they multiply quickly enough to be useful to man? And how much was man involved in their reproductive success?

Some animals have a pregnancy that is almost as long or longer that humans, as seen in the table below. We would expect cows, horses, elephants, and bears, to be as rare as people for many generations. We understand, of course, that the species that we know today came from centuries of natural and human-led breeding. Horses, for instance, first became numerous in the Steppe region, southern Russia, only after centuries. When humans could be counted in the thousands, horses were probably in the hundreds.

Longer lengths of pregnancy (in days)















Other animals, such as rabbits, squirrels, and mice, breed much more quickly than humans without any help (see table below). Two rabbits can become 200 after a year, and then they really take off. The red fox is known to have spread out from nothing to cover almost all of Australia in only a century. (1)

Sheep, goats, and pigs breed quickly with the help of humans. Abraham, Lot, and Jacob raised huge herds in their lifetimes. Pigs were both farmed and wild. We have evidence that herds of gazelle and antelopes were managed by early humans. Animal populations would have been sufficient for humans and consistent with what we find in archeology.

Shorter lengths of pregnancy (in days)





















No one in history has ever experienced physical salvation as dramatically as Noah and his family did. They were scheduled for death with the rest of humanity but received the grace of God and a new life in a new world. Would they not have been wholeheartedly praising God with thankful hearts? Accordingly, Noah gave sacrificial offerings of the clean animals, against his natural inclination to keep everything for himself. If he offered one of each seven animals, it would be analogous to honoring the Sabbath rest one day out of seven. And that would have still left a pair for each of this three sons. God takes care of those who honor Him.

“Abel was a keeper of sheep” (Genesis 4:2) who gave God a sacrificial offering from his flock, being deeply aware of his parents’ sin and the consequence of death. (Gen. 4:4). Noah also built an altar and offered burnt offerings that pleased God (Genesis 8:20). Were these superstitious men or heroes of our faith? Knowing how precious each animal was to them, Noah trusted God with his life, seeing the Lamb of God from afar (John 1:29, Hebrews 11:4, 7, 13). Interestingly, the Bible does not say that God commanded Abel or Noah to offer a sacrifice. They responded to their understanding of God’s powerful work of salvation that we only receive by grace. (Noah did not save himself from the Flood.) At the heart of salvation is One who sacrificed his life that we might live. On Noah’s altar, animals were sacrificed to recognize that Noah had already been saved. The Ark, the animals, and the altar all point to another event of history that transcends history, the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.




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