Giraffe is one of the most amazing animals especially
because of the long neck that makes it sometimes cumbersome
and prone to a couple of problems. We will see them
as we proceed and you will be able to understand more.
African ruminant mammal, Giraffa camelopardalis, live
in open savannahs south of the Sahara and has only one
family member, the Okapi. The giraffe is the tallest
living mammal. Head/shoulder length is approximately
13' for the male. Shoulder height is 8-12', overall
height 15-19'. Weight is 1,100-2,800 lbs. The reticulated
giraffes are handsomely patterned in golden browns,
with a coarsely netted (reticulated) pattern mainly
quadrangular in shape. Males and females have stiff
manes along their necks. Both sexes have horn-like structures
called ossicones on top of their heads between their
ears. These ossicones are present at birth in the form
of small knobs of cartilage covered with skin and hair
which becomes bony nodules with age.
They have seven vertebrae in neck, the same as man and
most other mammals despite the long neck. Only that
the vertebrae are much bigger. The tail measures up
to one yard with a terminal tuft of stiff, black hair.
They have long tongues that measure 18-21 inches long.
The inner part of the tongue is pink in color, and then
changes to a purpli sh-black color for the last 6 inches
that are commonly visible.
A quick look at the adaptations of the Giraffe
They have long legs and neck, long, tough, prehensile
tongue, and leathery mouth for food gathering. Their
coloration is protective. They are tall with good eyesight
for watchfulness. Giraffes have high blood pressure
(240/160) for pumping blood to the brain. Herds are
small and loosely constructed of 5-15 individuals, consisting
of one bull with females and young. Other bulls are
solitary or in pairs.
They usually sleep standing up. Going for a month
without water is also possible as an adaptation to long
drought periods in their native areas. A browsing ruminant
that eats regularly throughout the day, the giraffe
prefers young leaves and shoots at tops of acacia trees
which sometimes ends up shaping the regularly visited
trees. They prefer to drink regularly, but can go without
water for several days. Giraffes can run up to 35 mph.
Predators are leopards (prey on young), lions, and man.
Giraffes kick with their hooves and slam with their
heads. A giraffe usually sleeps for only 1-12 minutes.
Giraffes are non-seasonal breeders, usually producing
one calf after a gestation period of 14-15 months. Newborn
giraffe calves begin their lives by falling up to about
6 feet to the ground, and weight 87-107 lbs. They become
sexually mature between 3 and 4 years of age and have
a life span of about 25 years and up to 30 in captivity.
Full body size is not reached until five years of age.
It is interesting to note that...
The carotid artery that carries blood from the heart
to the head is thick, muscular and elastic, ballooning
when the giraffe stoops to absorb increase in pressure.
When the giraffe raises its head, a series of check
valves in the inch-wide jugular vein prevents a sudden
back flow from the head, emptying the brain. They are
most vulnerable to predators when drinking or lying
down. They may see red-orange, yellow-green, purple,
green and blue as colors. Their scientific name means
"camel-leopard-like one who walks swiftly." Their spot
patterns are as individual as fingerprints. They are
among the very few mammals that cannot swim at all.
Giraffe’s have a variety of sounds but they are rarely
heard. They may grunt of snort when alarmed, females
may whistle to call their young, and calves can bleat.
They are most vulnerable to predators when drinking
or lying down. They may see red-orange, yellow-green,
About the Author
Philip is the operator of Natural Track Safaris, a Kenya
based nature Safari Company catering for family outdoor
adventures, camping and overland safaris. For more safari
information visit http://www.natural-track.com