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How many animals on Noah's Ark?

Updated on July 12, 2015

How many animals were on the Ark? I’m talking about Noah’s Ark of course. A seagoing barge 137 metres long and about 21 metres wide, the ark is the largest wooden ship on record. Some critics say that a wooden ship can’t be that big, but there are three other ships in ancient records of between 100 and 120 metres in length. Engineers have tested the seaworthiness of the ark and it came out with flying colours. Considering how little we know about the construction of the Pyramids, the Temple at Baalbek, and other megalithic monuments, we should be careful about denying the ability of Noah to build the ark as described in the Bible.

The ark had the capacity of approximately 520 railroad cars. That’s enough cubic capacity for over 120,000 sheep. Today it is estimated that there are between 5 million and 100 million species of living things on the earth. Deducting the fish and invertebrates and whales, we are left with some 20,000 species of air breathing animals that would have needed transportation on the ark.

The number, however, gets smaller, the kind of the Bible and the species of modern science are not the same. Bible believing scientists who study the kinds of the Bible call their study Baraminology. Baramin is the Hebrew word(s) for created kind, and I suppose Baraminology sounds better than kindology. It is generally believed that there may have been about 2,000 kinds at the original creation. Allowing for a degree of speciation after the fall, there may have been about 8,000 species that needed to go on the ark. John Woodmorappe in his book Noah’s Ark: A Feasibility Study suggests that there were 16,000 animals on the ark with an average size of a sheep.

I remember being surprised when I read that. From what few pictures I had seen drawn of the ark (and they were mostly pictures for children’s books) there were giraffes and elephants and elk, lots of big animals. What’s more there were dinosaurs on the ark, with the average size of a sheep. I’ve watched Jurassic Park, and the majority of dinosaurs there are much larger than a sheep, but it turns out that that is simply artistic license. Many dinosaurs were small, and if the large dinosaurs were represented by immature juveniles on the ark, even they were small.

Using the size of a sheep as an average, and estimating 16,000 animals, we have used up 80 railroad cars worth of space on the ark, 80 out of 520. The rest of the space is used for food and water, and living space for the 8 people. But how do 8 people care for 16,000 animals.

Those of you with birds, rodents, and reptiles as pets understand what sort of work is required to care for them. Birds need food and water and their cages cleaned once a week, come to think of it, that’s about the same for rodents and reptiles. When John Woodmorappe studied how farmers and circus workers cared for their animals, he was able to calculate that in a six-day work week (he allowed for a Sabbath), 8 people would have all the time they needed to care for all the animals, “with still half a workday to spare.”

The numbers put up by critics of Noah’s Ark tend to be inflated and based on a different assumptions than those used by Bible believers. A closer examination of those numbers shows the unnecessary inflation which is intended solely for debunking. Serious examination of Noah’s Ark has been done by Biblical literalists and Noah’s Ark has been shown to feasible through engineering studies, environmental studies, and labour studies. Believers may not need proof, but neither do we subscribe to fables. How many animals were on the Ark? All that needed to be. How were they cared for? Quite well thank you.


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    • barrydan profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago from Calgary, Alberta, Canada

      Thanks for your comment zuma. One of the theories used by Young Earth Creationists is Catastrophic Plate Tectonics. This theory is capable of explaining Noah's Flood within the Biblical framework. While not all creationists accept CPT, I believe that it is the most developed of the creationists explanations.

      At this time there is no scientific paradigm for Noah's Flood, but the majority opinion would agree that fossils were formed as a result of the flood. The issue of mountain building is still being argued, but again, the majority opinion places it during or just after the flood. Whether Catastrophic Plate Tectonics will ultimately become a paradigm, or some combination of Hydroplate Theory, Impact Theory, or something else remains to be seen.

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      Plate Tectonics Theory has been found to be illogical to the formation of mountains. The only possible reason for the existence of sea creature fossils on top of mountains should be none other than Great Flood during Noah’s ark.

      The following is the extract from the website, pertaining to the origins of plate tectonic theory under the subheading, Ongoing Evidence for Plate Tectonics:

      ‘Today, much of the evidence concerning plate tectonics is acquired with satellite technology. Through use of the global positioning system (GPS) and other satellite-based data collection techniques, scientists can directly measure THE VELOCITY (or speed and direction of movement) OF PLATES on Earth’s surface. SPEEDS RANGE FROM 10 TO 100 MM PER YEAR, confirming the long-held belief that plates move at a slow but constant rate (see our module on Linear Equations for more detail on how to calculate rates of plate movement).

      The Himalayas, as it turns out, started forming about 40 million years ago when the Indian Plate collided head-on with the Eurasian Plate, shoving and folding rocks that had formed below sea level into lofty peaks. Because the Indian Plate is still moving northward, the Himalayas are still rising at a rate of about 1 cm per year. We no longer need to invoke a shrinking, wrinkled Earth to explain the marine fossils at the top of these tall mountains; it is the process of plate tectonics that continues to lift seafloor rocks to the sky.’

      My comment: As mentioned above, the velocity of plate tectonic is at a very slow speed with 10 to 100mm per year. Besides, the phrase, the Himalayas are still rising at a rate of about 1 cm per year, as mentioned above implies scientists support the continuous rising of mountain Himalaya with the speed of 1 cm per year.

      Let’s assume that the mountain Himalayas would be rising from 1 cm per year is true. As the mountain Himalaya would rise from 1 cm per year, the plain land in which living creatures reside would rise 1 cm as well. There is no reason why the plain land would remain the same high despite its nearby mountain could be risen by 1 cm. As the plain land would increase the same high as the same as the nearby mountain, the person that would stand at the mountain to measure its high would find no discrepancy even million years later. Thus, there is no reason why scientists would presume the continuous increase in high of mountain except the rising of sea level due to the simultaneous increase in high for both the mountain Himalaya as well as the plain land nearby. Indeed, the sea level all the while remains about the same high has proven the assumption of the continuous increase of mountain to be erroneous.

      The following are the extracts from website,

      ‘Soon afterwards, about 65 million years ago (Upper Eocene Period), came the second phase of mountain building. The bed of the Tethys started rising again. The sea retreated, and the sea bed was elevated into high mountain ranges.

      Later, about 25 million years ago (Middle Miocene Period) came another mountain building period which led to the formation of the low Shivalik ranges. After this, periodic mountain building phases occurred as the Indian plate pushed against the Eurasian plates which led to the Himalayan ranges rising further. The last major phase occurred 600,000 years ago.’

      My comment: As the speed of plate tectonic is at 10 to 200 mm per year as mentioned earlier, how could this slow speed have great impact upon lands to cause sea bed to be elevated into high mountain ranges? Unless the speed would be fast, the impact upon the land would be weak to cause seabed to be elevated. With such a slow speed to act upon seabed, it would be impossible for plate tectonic theory to be workable upon it to cause it to form mountains.

      Even if one would assume that the speed of plate tectonic upon the seabed would be fast so as to cause the rise of mountain, it might cause the concrete that is underneath the seabed to crack and turns up to have two layers of seabed and one is the upper seabed and another is the one that is underneath. The continuous exerting of pressure to cause the upper seabed to rise would result the hollow that is underneath to be formed after the crack to become broader to the ultimate collapse of the upper seabed. Thus, it seems to be that the formation of mountain through plate tectonic might seem to be unrealistic.

      As the plate tectonic theory seems to be illogical to be used to support the existence of seashells that were found on top of mountains, the only reason that we would rely upon is the existence of Noah’s ark that would have caused sea creature fossils to be deposited on mountains.

      The logic is simple that there is no reason to assume that sea creature fossils could climb up themselves to the top of mountains. The only possible reason is the strong waves as a result of Great Flood during Noah’s time that caused the seashells to be pushed up to the top of the mountains.

      The photographs about the seashells that were discovered on top of mountains:

    • emichael profile image


      7 years ago from New Orleans

      Interesting. Thanks for the resources, they will help get me started :)

    • barrydan profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Calgary, Alberta, Canada

      There has not been a lot written about the subject, probably because it is not well researched. The best answer I've been able to find is here:

      Briefly, the chemical content, including salinity of the flood waters are unknown. There are a variety of fish that can survive in both fresh and salt water. The oceans at higher latitudes may not have been as affected as those at lower latitudes providing a haven for whales and some fish.

      John Woodmaroppe's book "Noah's Ark: A Feasibility Study" also contains chapters with charts on the subject.

    • emichael profile image


      7 years ago from New Orleans

      "Deducting the fish and invertebrates and whales, we are left with some 20,000 species of air breathing animals that would have needed transportation on the ark."

      How do you explain the issue that the vast majority of fish, invertebrates, whales, etc. cannot survive in the brackish water that would have resulted from the inevitable mingling of fresh spring/rain water and ocean water? I believe the Bible account of the flood, but this is a specific issue to which I have not yet been able to find a satisfactory answer.

    • Knightheart profile image


      7 years ago from MIssouri, USA

      I agree with Barrydan. The world's science is flawed. Just look at the past and the evidence is clear. Things taken as fact are later 'proved to be wrong'. God is omnipotent and His intelligence can't even be comprehended by us. How foolish of man to even debate or question an all powerful being that created an entire universe that we can't even see in its entirety. The Bible has been with us for over 2000 years. Our 'science' is now beginning to back up events in the Bible and evidence of other things mentioned in the Bible are being proven. Nobody has ever sucessfully proven anything in the Bible is not true. In fact, the opposite is true.

      As for the Great Flood. Before the Flood, our planet didn't have rainfall like we know it. The first time it actually rained, was when God sent it to destroy the earth after Noah had completed the ark. I am sure the people that witnessed this were frightened out of their minds. It is easy for me to believe the earth flooded as told, just look at the devastation on the Mississippi River in just a few days of steady rain!

      As for me, science is part of us and am not denouncing it is beneficial and useful, but I refuse to let it disagree or attack God's Holy Word and the Truth it contains...the Bible is ALL true.

      I will choose God's account of creation over any man's or his science! When I face God when I am dead, as we all will some day, I know I wouldn't have the smugness to disagree with God on anything...the Bible is His Word to us!

    • barrydan profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Calgary, Alberta, Canada

      Well Kaniel, as long as you are not prepared to examine the evidence put forward by the young earth creationists, that ends the discussion.

    • Kaniel Loughran profile image

      Kaniel Loughran 

      7 years ago

      It is a matter of assumption on your end as well. You are assuming the earth is only a few thousand years old, when there is empirical, quantifiable, measurable facts that the earth is 4.2 billion years old... I still cannot fathom how one might be so ignorant to think dinosaurs were present only a few thousand years ago when they went extinct 65 million years ago.

      What is the difference between a kind and a species? The definition of species is: "a class of individuals having some common characteristics or qualities; distinct sort or kind." You are talking about semantics here; for all intensive purposes, species and kind are interchangeable (ex: humankind = human species). "Created Kinds," as I am sure you are referring to, are manifested and archaic explanations of something that was easily disproved. You are making the assumption (remember this was your first point against the proof against the case) that an invisible man, who we have no evidence of, came down and popped some animals here and there. If that is the case, how do you explain skeletons of dinosaurs carbon dated to be 65 million years old; or insects stuck in tree sap 50 million years ago; or fossils of pre-historic fish embedded in hundreds of feet of earth (which I promise you takes more time to naturally bury than a few thousand years)?

      As for the flooding, it really doesn't matter how long it would take (despite the ridiculous time frame of 28 days. How that statement could be accompanied by Ph.D. is well beyond my rationale) because there isn't enough water on earth to flood all the land. Even if all the polar ice caps melted and all the water in the atmosphere turned to precipitation, you still could not cover the earth in water. No matter what you think, it is not physically possible. We have geological proof that parts of the earth have been flooded severely in the past because they have left biological peat and trace elements not common considering the land's proximity to water. But you cannot, no matter what your degree in any science, prove that the entire earth shows a pattern of flooding in the very recent 5000 years or so, because it isn't there. You might find that evidence if you dig deep into the soil and find the earth from when the earth was just developing to its current color and shape, where most of the planet was water, but that again is many millions of years old, which disproves the young earth postulation (because that all it is, an uneducated guess).

      And the notion that God did it... That's such an easy answer. "What's your proof?" "God did it." Well that is akin to, "Why did you do that?" "Because." You didn't put forth any effort or evidence. And how could the animals redistribute themselves? The flood recedes and the earth is back as it were, and now there are an overwhelming amount of animals in one place (remember they are in the same food chain, they would eat each other.) who have to walk around. Picture some poor kangaroo stuck in present day Turkey (which is where they found this ridiculous natural formation that looks oval in shape that they just pointed to and said "there's the Ark!") and this kangaroo now has to hop his way down Iran, Afghanistan, India, Indonesia, jump into the water, swim to the coast of Australia (hopefully he doesn't hit New Zealand) and then hop into the difficult living conditions of the outback. He passed so much more fruitful landscapes on the way to Australia, why didn't he just stop and live where it was nice? It's because Kangaroos evolved into being able to sustain those conditions because they were already there. Besides, where did God get the time to replace the 750,000 species of insects? What an effort. Consider Epicurious, who said, "Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?” God explained that which could not be explained 2500 years ago. We have science now, let us stop with the imaginary people in the clouds. Even the Vatican apologized to the ancient scholars they excommunicated and condemned. All religion has provided in the last 2000 years is several crusades, invasions, an unending prejudice against other religions, and millions upon millions dead in the name of an invisible man in the sky.

      Lastly, no, I will never challenge my defined and proven facts of the physical world I live in. I do not assume when I say the earth was created by collisions of space rocks until they fused into an orbiting molten ball, which split off part of to create the moon (which could not escape its counterpart's orbit), and then hardened into a mass with the appropriate conditions to develop an atmosphere and water, not too far and not too close to the sun, and flourished life from biological processes which developed from singular celled organisms to the 10-30 million species we have today.

    • barrydan profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Calgary, Alberta, Canada

      Thank you for your comment Kaniel. The issue here is the assumptions being made.

      First, this is a young earth with Noah's flood occurring 1650 years after creation.

      Second, the size of the dinosaurs on the ark, an issue I addressed in my hub Dinosaurs on the Ark.

      Third, Noah took kinds on the ark not species. Creationists who study the difference (baraminologists) have provided the numbers. A further assumption is that there was rapid speciation after the flood.

      Fourth, a young earth geology is substantially different from an old earth evolutionary geology. Using Catastrophic Plate Tectonics as proposed by Dr. John Baumgardner (Ph.D. geophysics and space physics) only 28 days would have been needed to flood the earth.

      Fifth, the gathering of the animals was done by God, not Noah. The redistribution was left to the animals themselves. With the different environments after the flood there was rapid speciation and extinction.

      If you recognize that the Bible requires that we make a different set of assumptions from evolution, the conclusions we reach regarding the evidence also changes. The question is, Are you willing to challenge your assumptions?

    • Kaniel Loughran profile image

      Kaniel Loughran 

      7 years ago

      I have to be honest here, this is difficult to believe. I am not looking to attack you, this is simply my attempt to debate your theory.

      Are you suggesting dinosaurs, who went extinct 65 million years before Noah was supposedly born, were on the ark? How could their size be artistic license? Have you been to the Natural History Museum? There are dinosaurs all over, some the size of trucks.

      And how could you suggest there were only 20,000 air breathing species? There are 37,500 species of spiders alone that were present well before biblical times. There are also 4500 species of air breathing mammals, just under 7000 species of reptiles, and a whopping 750,000 species of air breathing insects, which were most definitely present pre Noah. I don't see Noah running around with a butterfly net trying to catch them all. Just because they didn't know about them doesn't mean they weren't there.

      My biggest problem with the entirety of this story is the fact that it could not possibly rain enough to flood the earth. But if it were possible, a Russian mathematician calculated it would take 102,000 years to rain enough to flood the earth. Couple that with the fact that Noah would have had to travel around the world, round up all the species from their natural habitats, and then replace them when the flood subsided. That means he had to go put the kangaroos back in what is now Australia, the elephants, tigers, lions, gazelle, etc in Africa, the nearly 3000 species of snakes indigenous to massively hard to navigate rainforests and jungles, some of which are highly poisonous, take the polar bears back to the arctic, and so on.

      I'm not doubting it's a good story with moral values and the like, but to consider it fact is too impossible.

    • barrydan profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Calgary, Alberta, Canada

      Thanks for the encouragement Sunnie Day.

    • profile image

      Sunnie Day 

      7 years ago

      Loved the last line..."How many animals were on the Ark? All that needed to be. How were they cared for? Quite well thank you'. and that's all

      Thanks Barry for a great hub!



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