Ever wondered how what animal lives the longest on Planet Earth, which mammals have the shortest lifespan, or how the human lifespan compares to other mammals?


1-2 years: Weasel lifespan

Weasels have one of the shortest lifespans of any mammal, living for just one or two years. They make up for their short life by having up to 13 kits in a litter and up to three litters a year.

Least weasel (Mustela nivalis)
The least weasel doesn't live as long as most larger animals. © Zahoor Salmi/Getty

3 years: Hedgehog lifespan

Hedgehogs are a very popular mammal in the UK and are frequent visitors to our gardens and fields. However, they have very tough lives: half die in their first year, and few live longer than three years.

Close-up of a Hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus) on green grass in Scottish countryside
A happy hedgehog in Scotland. © Nature Picture Library/Getty

12 years: Wolverine lifespan

The wolverine is the largest members of the weasel family, and live for up to 12 years. As a longer-lived animal, they stay with their mother until the age of two, when they have matured and can start to breed.

Wolverine aka glutton with a relatively short lifespan
Wolverine aka glutton with a relatively short lifespan. © Manfred Delpho/Getty

14 years: Tiger lifespan

Tigers on average live for 14 years. Young tigers suffer a high mortality rate, with 50 per cent dying before the age of one.

The Siberian tiger is walking carefully. His body is seen from the front side. His mouth is partially open. He turns his head slightly towards to the right side.
Siberian tiger aka Amur tiger. © Ibrahim Suha Derbent/Getty

25 years: Brown Bear lifespan

The iconic brown bear lives for around 25 years. Apart from humans, brown bears have few enemies – in Russia’s Far East, the Siberian tiger is a rare threat.

European Brown Bear (Ursus arctos arctos) in the Carparthian Mountains, Romania
A European brown bear in the Carparthian Mountains, Romania. © Joanne Hedger/Getty

30 years: Lowland Tapir lifespan

Tapirs are large, robust mammals and live for around 30 years. They may look like a meal for big cats such as jaguars, but they are rarely taken.

Photograph of a lowland tapir (Tapirus terrestris) in green Atlantic Rainforest field, Guapiacu Ecological Reserve, Rio de Janeiro state, Brazil
Lowland tapirs can live for up to 30 years. © Vitor Marigo/Aurora Photos/Getty

35 years: Western Gorilla lifespan

Gorillas mature slowly and breed late – females give birth for the first time at the age of about 10, and have one baby every four years. They live to around 35 years old in the wild, but like other mammals on this list are under threat due to human activity. Combined with their slow reproductive rate, this is a contributing factor to their decreasing population and critically endangered status.

Baby mountain gorilla in north west Rwanda
This baby gorilla has a lifespan of around 35 years. © David Yarrow/Getty

41 years: Brandt's Bat lifespan

As a very general rule, smaller animals tend to have a shorter lifespan. However, Brandt’s bats live extraordinarily long lives considering their size, up to 41 years.

Hibernating Brandt's bats (Myotis brandtii)
Hibernating Brandt's bats. © Yves Adams/Getty

56 years: elephant lifespan

Elephants are unusual among mammals other than humans in having a ‘use’ after they stop breeding – older females help to look after young calves.

Baby African elephant with its mother
Female elephants will still look after calves when they're past breeding age. © abadonian/Getty

80 years: Human lifespan

Humans are the longest-lived land mammal, so are towards the top of the list of long-living mammals. However, we aren't the longest living mammals on Earth by a long way.

200 years: Bowhead Whale lifespan - the longest living mammal

There are a number of marine species that outlive humans, and the mammal species that holds the record for longevity is the bowhead whale, which can live for 200 years - or more.

Adult bowhead whale (Balaena mysticetus) surfacing in Arctic Harbour, Isabella Bay, Baffin Island, Nunavut, Canada, North America
The bowhead whale lives in the Arctic and has a lifespan of 200 years or more. © Michael Nolan/robertharding/Getty


These facts originally appeared in BBC Wildlife Magazine's The Big Book of Mammals.


James FairWildlife journalist