After successful courtship, elephants mate with the male mounting the female from behind. Mating occurs after somewhat elaborate courtship and mating rituals.
During courtship, the female and male elephants may touch mouths and intertwine their trunks prior to mating. The female elephant's menstruation cycle lasts for three to four months, so an elephant is only in heat three or four times each year. Elephants carry their young for 22 months prior to giving birth, making their gestational periods the longest among all mammals.
Because the female goes into heat so few times a year, zoos often artificially inseminate female elephants as part of their breeding programs.