For obvious reasons, giraffes are the tallest animals in the world. With an eternal neck like that, no wonder you might say! It almost seems as if they come from another planet!
Apart from its unmistakably long and unusual neck, what do you really know about the giraffe??? Any ideas? Why don’t we find out together?
Thankfully the giraffe’s tongue is not as imposing as its neck, yet it is still worth mentioning (around 45 cm). Why that long? Well you see, the animal’s favorite food comes from the acacia tree. For most animals acacia leaves are unattainable due to the huge thorns on the tree (several cm long; trust me you wouldn’t want to get some of those anywhere near you). For the giraffe however, this is no issue whatsoever; thanks to its prehensile lip and tongue it can maneuver a way around thorns to reach its treat. Et voila! Easy, huh?! 😉
The tongue’s colour is also quite intriguing. It has a distinctive purple bluish colour, which acts as natural sunscreen!
A long neck is extremely advantageous to reach the highest leaves from trees. Do you know how many bones form a giraffe’s neck? 20? 30? 50? NOT EVEN CLOSE!
Let me give you a hint: how many vertebrae do we have in our neck?
If you’re still wondering the answer’s 7; exactly the same as the giraffe! Amazing, isn’t it?! Of course giraffe vertebrae are just a little larger (up to 25 cm long), and heavier than ours :).
Its Unique Pattern
Giraffes have a superb patterned skin that looks slightly like burnt pop corn! They are a beauty to watch, and their coat is like no other; perhaps the only animal that could rival its originality would be the leopard!
The gestation period for the animal is around 15 months, and they usually breed all year round. Only one calf is born at a time (twins are extremely rare).
Like most births it can be quite traumatizing for the new being. Nonetheless, for baby giraffe in particular it is a very uncharacteristic welcome; the calf makes a 1.8 m plunge onto the ground. Hard to imagine, right? While the fall does not hurt the calf, it enables it to take its first deep breath. After as little as an hour, the baby will be up and running as if nothing had just happened! Truly fascinating!!!
Male versus Female
– Larger than female (up to 5.7 m in height; females +/- 60 cm shorter).
– Heavier (973-1395 kg).
– Darker skin as the individual matures.
– Larger and longer (up to 13 cm) horns on the head; get bold over time because of fights.
– Single medial horn on the forehead, and a bump over each eye socket and behind each ear.
– Smaller (700 kg on average; 4-5 m in height).
– Lighter skin.
– The cow’s horns turn inwards and are well tufted.
There is only one giraffe species, but several subspecies (9 in total). What distinguishes them from one another is the area they live in, their diet, and the variety of patterns on the skin. The most common subspecies is the Masai giraffe which mainly inhabits the regions of Kenya and Tanzania. Other types include the Rothschild’s giraffe (western Kenya), and the prettiest of them all: the Reticulated type. The latter has an incredible coat pattern, with crisp liver-coloured geometric patches!
Giraffes have very few predators because of their size and fearful kick that can kill in the blink of an eye! They are most vulnerable while drinking, as they have to lean forward to reach the water. Lions prey on giraffe during that time, as well as large crocodiles. On some occasions hyenas may also go for them, although they will only target young ones.
Have you ever watched a giraffe running? They can achieve speeds of almost 60 kph yet it feels like they are advancing in slow motion! Very funny to watch!