| Swahili Name:
Giraffidae Giraffa camelopardalis reticulata
14 to 19 ft (4 to 6 m)
males—up to 3000 pounds (1360 kilograms); females—up to 1500
20 to 25 years
Savannas, Sahel, and dry, open woodland, regions featuring an abundance of acacia
Humans, lions and leopards
Giraffes are the world's tallest mammals, thanks to their towering legs and long necks. A giraffe's legs alone are taller than many humans—about 6 feet (1.8 meters). These long legs allow giraffes to run as fast as 35 miles (56 kilometers) an hour over short distances and cruise comfortably at 10 miles (16 kilometers) an hour over longer distances.
Typically, these fascinating animals roam the open grasslands in small groups of about half a dozen.
Bulls sometimes battle one another by butting their long necks and heads. Such contests aren't usually dangerous and end when one animal submits and walks away.
Giraffes use their height to good advantage and browse on leaves and buds in treetops that few other animals can reach (acacias are a favorite). Even the giraffe's tongue is long! The 21-inch (53-centimeter) tongue helps them pluck tasty morsels from branches. Giraffes eat most of the time and, like cows, regurgitate food and chew it as cud. A giraffe eats hundreds of pounds of leaves each week and must travel miles to find enough food.
The giraffe's height also helps it to keep a sharp lookout for predators across the wide expanse of the African savanna.
The giraffe's stature can be a disadvantage as well—it is difficult and dangerous for a giraffe to drink at a water hole. To do so they must spread their legs and bend down in an awkward position that makes them vulnerable to predators like Africa's big cats. Giraffes only need to drink once every several days; they get most of their water from the luscious plants they eat.
|Caring for the Young
Female giraffes give birth standing up. Their young endure a rather rude welcome into the world by falling more than 5 feet (1.5 meters) to the ground at birth. These infants can stand in half an hour and run with their mothers an incredible ten hours after birth.
Giraffes have beautiful spotted coats. While no two individuals have exactly the same pattern, giraffes from the same area appear similar.
- Eats up to 75 pounds of food a day (typically Acacia leaves)
- Favorite food – Acacia Leaves
- Tongue is 18 inches long
- Have a four chambered stomach and will regurgitate their food for additional chewing – similarly to a cow.
- Typically get most of their water from the Acacia leaf, but will drink up to 10 gallons of water per day.
- Knobs are called Ossicones
- Although rarely heard, Giraffes can moo, hiss, roar and whistle to communicate with one another
- Have the longest tail of any land mammal – up to 8 feet long, including the tuft at the end.
- Giraffes at the San Diego zoo enjoy raw onions as a special treat
- Ancient Romans and Greeks thought that the Giraffe was a mix between a camel and a leopard. This is where their scientific Genus name of "camelopardalis" comes from.
- Their heart is 2 feet long and weighs about 25 pounds
- The heart's muscular walls are several inches thick
- They have the highest known blood pressure of any mammal in the world – up to 280/180mm Hg when prone at heart level (approximately twice that of an average human)
- Their heart beats up to 170 times/minute
- Jugular vein contains a series of one way valves that prevent the back flow of blood when the Giraffes head is down to drink water. This prevents the Giraffe from blacking out.
- The heart pumps about 16 gallons of blood/minute
- Oxpeckers(tick birds) are often seen "hitching" a ride on the backs of Giraffes. They help keep the Giraffe parasite free by eating ticks and other parasites off of the Giraffes skin.
- Extreme care must be taken when scientists catch Giraffes for study or for capture for a zoo exhibit. If the Scientists run the Giraffe too long, the Giraffe will suffer a heart attack due to its high blood pressure. Scientists typically target younger Giraffes for this reason.
- Have no tear ducts, although they have been seen crying
- Have never been observed bathing
- Mom Giraffes form a type of daycare for their young. One of the females in the heard will stay behind and baby sits all of the youngsters while the rest of the females go out foraging for food.
- Despite its extreme length, the Giraffes neck is actually too short to reach the ground. As a result, it has to awkwardly spread its front legs or kneel on its front legs in order to reach the ground to drink water.
- It is the tallest animal in the world
- Males stand 16-18 feet; Females 14-16 feet
- Males weigh up to 2,000 pounds; Females a bit lighter
- Females use their hooves as weapons only to defend their young.
- They are strong enough to kill a lion, which is the Giraffe's only real predator.
- Born with horns
- Both males and females have them.
- Covered with skin
- Males are thicker and heavier and are used sometimes to fight other males.
- Only found naturally in Africa
- Their tongue is black
- Can gallop 31-37 miles per hour
- Form herds and travel together for protection
- Their average territorial range is approximately 46 square miles
- Males known as bulls
- Females known as cows
- Can rest standing up
- Usually only sleep 5 minutes at a time
- When sleeping, the giraffe generally lies on the ground, tucking its front legs under itself, then curls its neck back and rests its head on its rump.
- Females have their first conception in their fifth year.
- Gestation period is 15 months
- Interval between births is generally 20 months
- Life expectancy of 25 years in the wild
- A baby is generally 6 feet tall and will weigh about 150 pounds at birth
- A baby will fall approximately 6 feet during birth before hitting the ground
- A baby will begin nursing within one hour
- A baby will generally also begin walking within one hour
- They spend between 16 and 20 hours a day feeding