The giraffe is a distinctive animal and easily recognisable. At the top of those long necks are heads with such beautiful eyes. Find out what else is fabulous about the giraffe.
1. Tall beauty
The giraffe is the tallest land mammal in the world, with legs reaching up to 1.8m in height. The giraffe also has the longest neck, reaching heights of over 1.7m, and the longest tongue, which can grow to a shocking length of 46cm – that’s longer than an average ruler. His tongue is also dark-coloured to protect it from sunburn.
2. Uncomfortable way of rehydrating
Even though the giraffe has an astonishingly long neck, it is still too short to reach the ground when bending down. Giraffes have developed a way of drinking water by spreading their front legs to a comfortable position and bending them at the knees to reach the water, enabling them to drink. This position places a giraffe in a vulnerable situation, and therefore giraffes never drink water without one or two lookouts. These lookouts ensure that they are safe. Giraffes take turns between drinking and being the lookout.
3. Abnormally similar neck
You would think that the giraffe’s neck would have more than the usual number of neck vertebrae, but the opposite is true. Giraffes and people share the same amount of neck vertebrae, both having only seven. Obviously, they are not the same size – one giraffe vertebra is about 25cm long.
4. Not that thirsty
Giraffes eat most of the day, about 34kg worth of nourishment. They use their lengthy tongues to reach the higher leaves and wrap their tongues around them to pull them down. They only drink water once every few days due to the dangers when drinking water. They get a lot of their water through the juicy leaves they eat.
5. Helpful valve
Because of the giraffe’s size, it can be expected that he will have an enormous heart. His heart is 60cm long and can weigh up to 12kg. Furthermore, the jugular veins comprise a series of one-way valves that avoids excess blood flowing to the brain when the giraffe is bending down to drink water.
6. Fast when in danger
Giraffes aren’t seen as great runners – they cruise at a speed of 16km/h. But when they are threatened, they’re able to run as fast as 56km/h, and they can also deliver a fatal kick with their hind legs. Predators are known to have died of these kicks, which in turn made them be beyond careful during a pursuit. Giraffes don’t walk identical to other quadrupeds; they tread by moving their front and hind legs of the same side simultaneously, called pacing.
7. Stolen pelt
Males are known as bulls and females as cows. The ancient Greeks believed that the giraffe is a camel wearing a leopard’s pelt, and that is where his scientific name, Giraffa camelopardalis, originates from. Very much like a leopard’s spots, no two giraffes have the same markings – similar to a human’s fingerprint.
8. Tired feet?
Giraffes spend most of their lifetime standing up. The cow gives birth to a calf while standing – the fall for a calf can be up to 1.8m. After birth, a calf can walk by himself within an hour. It is established that giraffes can sleep while standing up as they don’t need much sleep. They only need five to 30 minutes of sleep in a 24-hour period, which they achieve through taking short naps of one to two minutes. Sometimes, when a giraffe is exhausted, he will take a vulnerable six-minute nap while lying on the ground.
9. What are those?
Males and females both have small furry horns on top of their heads. These horns are called ossicones, are situated between the ears and have dark tips. Bulls use these horns when fighting with other males. Females do not use them as much as males.
10. Lovers or fighters
Giraffes aren’t always the gentle giants we’d like them to be. Males participate in what is called ‘necking’ – they swing their heads violently at each other. To a giraffe, this action can be fatal when he strikes with a wrong angle. This behaviour is done to compete with other bulls for dominance in a certain area, which enables them to mate with the cows within that region.