Posted by: BibleScienceGuy | March 9, 2022

Could Noah Fit All the Animals on the Ark?

(4 Minute Read. 9Mar2022)

Noah’s Ark Switchplate
(Absurdly unrealistic portrayal of Noah’s Ark)

One of the most common objections that skeptics raise about Noah’s Ark involves all the animals that God commanded Noah to load. They ask, “How could Noah fit millions of animals on the Ark?”

A common misconception about Noah’s ark is portrayed by the light switchplate in this picture. Many Noah’s Ark depictions show animals overflowing the Ark like on this switchplate.

Whimsical art often shows animals awkwardly crammed into the Ark. Giraffe necks frequently stick out of portholes or roof vents and other large animals hang over the sides of Noah’s Ark. Such pictures promote the deception that the Flood and Ark account in Genesis is a foolish fable.

But this is dead wrong. There was plenty of space on the Ark for all Noah’s animals as will be shown in this article.

When people doubt that Noah’s Ark had sufficient space for all the animals, they usually are completely misinformed about these issues:
Which animals were on the Ark?
How many animals were on the Ark?
How big was the Ark?

If you don’t know the answers to these questions, how can you say the Ark did not have enough room for all the animals?

How Many Animals Were on the Ark?

Noah did not need to take sea creatures. Some aquatic creatures would survive, although many would have died in the turbulent flood waters. Most insect kinds also could have survived on floating vegetation mats. In any case, insects take up very little space. Lots of insects probably were with the animals in their cages and throughout the Ark.

Noah only needed to take land-dwelling, air-breathing animal kinds and bird kinds on the Ark.
Behold, I, even I am bringing the flood of water upon the earth, to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life, from under heaven; everything that is on the earth shall perish. But I will establish My covenant with you; and you shall enter the ark — you and your sons and your wife, and your sons’ wives with you. And of every living thing of all flesh, you shall bring two of every kind into the ark, to keep them alive with you; they shall be male and female. Of the birds after their kind, and of the animals after their kind, of every creeping thing of the ground after its kind, two of every kind will come to you to keep them alive. (Genesis 6:17-20)

Noah did not need to take every species or variety of an animal kind. Consider this for example: how many dogs were on the Ark?

Dog breeds are listed with the World Canine Organization, the largest internationally accepted breed registry. It currently recognizes 354 breeds of dogs.

But most of these dog breeds have only been developed in the last few centuries through selective breeding. Noah only needed to take two of the dog kind with a broad genotype. From these two Ark dogs, all the breeds of domestic dogs could descend, plus wolves, coyotes, foxes, dingoes, etc.

Likewise, Noah didn’t need two lions, two tigers, two leopards, two jaguars, two lynx, two cheetahs, two pumas, two house cats, etc. He just loaded a pair of the cat kind with a robust genotype on the Ark. From that cat pair developed all the cat varieties we have today.

The Biblical classification term kind is not the same as today’s classification term species; kind is much broader. According to Genesis 1, all living things were created to reproduce after their kind. Therefore kind is determined by the ability to breed and reproduce. Thus kind is similar to family in today’s taxonomic classification scheme.

Alive today are only 558 animal families of the animals that would have been on the Ark — mammals (156 families), reptiles (76 families), amphibians (76 families), birds (250 families). And it may be that some reptiles and amphibians could have survived the Flood and did not need to be on the Ark. It only takes two, a male and a female, to survive the Flood in order to continue the reptile or amphibian kind.

We don’t know how many animal families were alive in Noah’s day, but for a generous estimate let’s assume that 50% have gone extinct since Noah. So if we double the number of animal families now living, that means Noah only had to take about
2 x 558 = 1,116 animal kinds on board the Ark.

Noah took one pair of every unclean animal kind, seven pairs of the clean animal kinds, and seven pairs of the bird kinds. Let’s estimate that half of the mammals, reptiles, and amphibians were clean. This is surely far too large a fraction, but it will serve as an upper bound on the number of clean animals. Then I estimate the number of animals on the Ark as follows:
156 mammal kinds + 76 reptile kinds + 76 amphibian kinds = 308 animal kinds
308 / 2 = 154 unclean animal kinds
308 / 2 = 154 clean animal kinds
2 x 154 = 308 unclean animals
2 x 7 x 154 = 2,156 clean animals
2 x 7 x 250 = 3,500 birds
Total animals = 308 + 2,156 + 3,500 = 5,964

Thus by taking only about 6,000 animals on the Ark, Noah could preserve the created kinds of birds and land animals, including dinosaurs.

How Big Was Noah’s Ark?

Was Noah’s Ark big enough to hold all these animals? Could it hold 6,000 animals?

A previous article in this Noah Series, How Big Was Noah’s Ark?, gave the dimensions of the three-deck Ark as around 550 feet long by 90 feet wide and 55 feet high.

The capacity of the Ark was equivalent to that of 522 standard railroad boxcars. The average animal size is that of a sheep and a boxcar holds 240 sheep. Let’s figure on 120 sheep per boxcar instead of 240 to give plenty of room for a year-long voyage. Using only 50 of the available 522 boxcars would hold 50 x 120 = 6,000 animals, the estimated upper limit for the number of animals on the Ark. Plenty of room remained for Noah’s family and storage of supplies in the remaining 472 boxcars of space. Less than one-tenth (1/10) of the available space on the Ark was needed for the animals.

In 2014, physics students at the University of Leicester showed that Noah’s ark would have floated with all the animals on board. Using the dimensions given in Genesis and applying Archimedes’ Principle, they demonstrated that the buoyancy force of the Ark would have easily supported the weight of all the animals.
The students said, “Our conclusions were that the Ark would support the weight of 2.15 million sheep without sinking and that should be enough to support all of the species that were around at the time.”
(The animals came in two by two, hurrah!, University of Leicester News, April 3, 2014)

Noah’s Ark was a massive cargo ship. A bit of reasonable estimating as outlined above shows that Noah’s Ark had more than enough room for Noah and his family along with thousands of animals and food and supplies for all.

Besides all the reasonable estimates in this article, don’t you think the Great Creator would have told Noah to make the Ark big enough to fit everything needed on it?

Questions to Ponder

1. Are you ready to train your brain to mentally replace the cutesy version of Noah’s Ark with a Biblical portrayal?
2. Why does it matter whether or not we think accurately about Noah’s Ark?

Share your thoughts on these questions in the comments below. It could encourage or help another reader.

For Christ and His Kingdom. Soli Deo Gloria. Alere Flammam Veritatis.

This is the seventh in a series of articles on Noah. This Noah Series will suggest answers to many of the questions believers and skeptics have about Noah, Noah’s Ark, and Noah’s Flood.
Read the prequels:
1. Think You Know Noah?
2. Did Jesus Think Noah Was Real?
3. How Long Did It Take Noah to Build the Ark?
4. Could Noah Build the Ark in 75 Years?
5. How Big Was Noah’s Ark?
6. Were Dinosaurs on Noah’s Ark?

Read the sequel:
8. What Was Noah’s Flood Like?

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©William T. Pelletier, Ph.D.
“contending earnestly for the faith”
“destroying speculations against the knowledge of God”
“for the defense of the gospel”
(Jude 1:3; 2 Cor 10:5; Phil 1:16)
Wednesday March 9, 2022 A.D.

Then God said to Noah, “The end of all flesh has come before Me; for the earth is filled with violence because of them; and behold, I am about to destroy them with the earth. Make for yourself an ark of gopher wood; you shall make the ark with rooms, and shall cover it inside and out with pitch. This is how you shall make it: the length of the ark three hundred cubits, its breadth fifty cubits, and its height thirty cubits. You shall make a window for the ark, and finish it to a cubit from the top; and set the door of the ark in the side of it; you shall make it with lower, second, and third decks. Behold, I, even I am bringing the flood of water upon the earth, to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life, from under heaven; everything that is on the earth shall perish.
(Genesis 6:13-17)

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  1. I like your math and reasoning!
    The other thing to consider as well is, were the animal on board the ark fully grown adults?
    I do believe they would have been old enough to breed, but were probably younger and smaller.
    Thus would take up even less room and live longer to propagate and refill the Earth.


    • Thanks for reading and commenting. Yes, the animals on the Ark were surely young specimens. This would be especially important for large animals like dinosaurs. Young animals could take up less space, require less food, and have a full reproductive life ahead of them after deboarding the Ark. It’s also possible that many animals hibernated on the Ark. This would reduce the burden of care for Noah and his family.


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