One of the world’s gentle giants, the Giraffe is a tall African mammal belonging to the genus Giraffa. Here are 10 amazing giraffe facts.
1. Giraffe is the tallest mammal in the world
A fully grown giraffe can stand 4.3-5.7 meters (14.1-18.7 feet) tall (see notes 1). Males are taller than females.
Even a newborn giraffe, which is about 1.7-2 meters (5.6-6.6 feet) tall is taller than most humans.
They are not so heavy for a 5-plus meter tall animal, thanks to their slim build. An average male weighs about 1,200 kg (2,645 lbs), while females are naturally lighter, about 800 kg (1,763 lbs).
2. They live in savannahs and eat plants
Giraffes usually inhabit savannahs and woodlands in Africa. Their coat pattern can serve as camouflage in the light and shade patterns of these environments.
They are herbivores, only eat plants. Their long height helps them reach the leaves and buds in the treetops.
They also have very long tongues (which grow to a whopping 53cm or 21 inches!) also help them pull down leaves.
They spend most of their time eating, and can eat up to 45 kilograms (about 100 lbs) of leaves and twigs a day!
3. A giraffe’s neck is too short to reach the ground
Despite having the longest neck in the animal world, which can be up to 2.4 meters (7.9 feet) in length, they have also long legs, which are alone taller than many humans, about 1.8 meters or 6 feet, so their neck is too short to reach the ground. In order to drink water, a giraffe first has to splay their forelegs and/or bend its knees. Only then they can lower their necks to reach the surface of the water (see the amazing video below).
Fortunately for them, they only need to drink once every few days as most of their water comes from all the plants they eat.
Another amazing giraffe fact: to protect the animal’s brain from sudden changes in blood pressure when it lowers its head to drink, the jugular veins have incredibly elastic walls and large one-way valves that allow the veins to expand significantly and prevent the blood from flowing back to the brain.
Alternatively, to help fight gravity when the blood returns to the heart from the feet, their blood vessels are thickly walled and muscled, and the skin on the legs is so tight it acts like giant compression socks.
These unique adaptations have been studied by scientists at NASA to get inspiration for human space suits.
4. Female giraffe give birth standing up
The calf emerges head and front legs first. Within a few hours of birth, the newborn is almost indistinguishable from a one-week-old calf, and they’re able to run with their mothers.
5. They hum at night
Giraffes are actually very quiet animals. It had been even suggested they don’t vocalize because they can’t generate enough airflow in their long necks, despite having well-developed larynx and laryngeal nerves. But, in 2015, a team of biologists has recorded giraffes at three zoos humming at night, a vocalization they describe as “rich in harmonic structure, having a deep and sustained sound.” They published their findings in a study.
Scientists also think that humming giraffes might be communicating with each other.
6. They are very social animals
Giraffes are social animals and they roam in groups called a tower. A tower can contain up to 15 individuals. A male leads a tower.
7. Males do “Neck battle”
Giraffes utilize a very unusual battle technique. To display dominance, males (called bulls) fight by butting their long necks and heads against each other.
First, when they’re young, they playfully joust. Then, when they become mature males, the neck-to-neck battles become more e serious. Usually, these fights aren’t dangerous, These fights aren’t usually dangerous, and end when one bull admits defeat and just walks away. But, occasionally, and unfortunately, injuries, even deaths occur.
8. Compared to other animals, they have a longer lifespan
Giraffes have an unusually long lifespan compared to other wild animals, 25 years on average, but even up to 38 years. Because of their size, eyesight, and powerful kicks, adult individuals (especially larger ones) are usually not subject to predation. Although lions may regularly prey on individuals up to 550 kg (1,210 lb).
Captive individuals can live even longer, up to 40 years.
9. Their heart is big – and fast!
Their heart can weigh more than 11 kg (25 lb) and measures about 60 cm (2 ft) long. The wall of the heart can be as thick as 7.5 cm (3.0 in). Giraffes have unusually high heart rates for their size, with an average resting heart rate of 40-90 beats per minute. While running, their heartbeat can raise to 150 beats per minute. In general, almost as a rule, the larger the animal, the slower its heartbeats, and the smaller the animal, the faster its heartbeats. But, giraffes make an exception to this.
10. Their feet are also big
Their feet are also large, about the size of a dinner plate with a diameter of 30 cm (1 foot – ironically).
Bonus giraffe fact 1: There’s a giraffe hotel in Kenya
There’s a five-star boutique hotel named Giraffe Manor in Kenya. It’s situated on private land in the indigenous forests of Nairobi, and it’s best-known for the giraffes that walk around the hotel grounds. It’s common for them to peek inside the windows of various hotel areas, hoping to score a treat or two, before they head back to the forest.
Bonus giraffe fact 2: They have a higher chance of getting struck by lightnings
Yes, giraffes get struck by lightning more often than other (smaller/shorter) animals.
Some not so-amazing giraffe facts
In 2016, giraffes were assessed as Vulnerable from a conservation perspective by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
For some subspecies (see notes 2), the situation is even more critical: Masai and reticulated subspecies are endangered, and the Rothschild subspecies is near threatened. The Nubian subspecies is critically endangered.
In 1985, it was estimated there were 155,000 giraffes in the wild. This declined to over 140,000 in 1999. Estimates as of 2016 indicate there are approximately 97,500 members of Giraffa in the wild. The primary causes for the decline of their numbers are habitat loss and direct killing for bushmeat markets.
In some populations, over 50% of all giraffe calves do not survive their first year.
1. Forest: The World’s Tallest Giraffe
World’s tallest giraffe: According to the Guinness World Records, a 12-year-old giraffe called Forest, which is a resident of Australia Zoo in Queensland, has been confirmed as the world’s tallest giraffe, standing at 5.7 meters tall (18 ft 8 in). Guinness World Records article about Forest the Tallest Giraffe was written in July 2020, so Forest must be at least 13 years old (as of February 2022).
There are nine (or if you merge some of them, four) subspecies of giraffe.
- The Kordofan giraffe (G. c. antiquorum)
- The Nubian giraffe (G. c. camelopardalis)
- Rothschild’s giraffe (G. c. rothschildi)
- The West African giraffe (G. c. peralta)
- The reticulated giraffe (G. c. reticulata)
- The Angolan giraffe (G. c. angolensis)
- The South African giraffe (G. c. giraffa)
- The Masai giraffe (G. c. tippelskirchi)
- Thornicroft’s giraffe (G. c. thornicrofti)
Or, the merged list is:
- Northern giraffe (G. camelopardalis) (1, 2, 3, and 4 merged)
- Reticulated giraffe (G. reticulata)
- Southern giraffe (G. giraffa) (6 and 7 merged)
- Masai giraffe (G. tippelskirchi) (8 and 9 merged)