20 Giraffe Facts That Will Shock You

Facts Chief

03 Jun 2016

Quick Facts

  1. Binomial Name: Giraffa Camelopardalis
  2. Subspecies: 9, identified mainly by their distinctive coat patterns
  3. Type: Mammal
  4. Food: Herbivores that eat mostly acacia leaves
  5. Average Lifespan: 25 years
  6. Habitat: Savanna
  7. Conservation Status: Least Concern
  8. Length of Step: 15 feet
  9. Gaits: 2 (walking and galloping)
  10. Gestational Period: 14 to 14.5 months

Giraffes Are the Tallest Living Terrestrial Animals

Giraffe facts reveal something that you probably already suspected: giraffes are the tallest animals currently found on Earth. The characteristics that are most distinctive for giraffes are their extremely long neck and legs. They are classified as even-toed ungulate mammals, and they are also the proud owners of the title of the world’s largest ruminant. Ruminants are animals that eat plants and then ferment them in their stomach before digesting them.

Giraffes Live Mostly in Africa

This giraffe fact may not come as a huge surprise to you, but giraffes can only be found in Africa – in the wild, of course. They only populate a few parts of Africa and usually live in savannas, grasslands and open woodlands. Nowadays, however, giraffes can also be found in almost all other parts of the world, but unfortunately only in zoos, safari parks, circuses and other types of animal parks.

Lions Are Giraffes’ Biggest Enemies

Giraffes do not have that many predators, mainly due to their size and the fact that they are hard to reach – however, giraffe facts reveal that their size does not stop lions from having a go at them. Even though giraffes’ height enables them to have a good lookout for predators, they are still often preyed on by lions. Giraffes’ calves are also often targeted by other animals, such as leopards, African wild dogs and spotted hyenas.

Some Subspecies of Giraffes Are Endangered

Giraffes are currently not endangered – they are classified as Least Concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. However, due to a decreasing population trend, their status could change in the near future and they could be placed in a higher threat category.

Even though giraffes are currently not endangered as a species, some subspecies are already very low in population. This is mainly due to loss of their natural habitat, which is the consequence of logging for firewood. Giraffe facts show that giraffes are also often hunted for meat, hides and tails, which have different roles in traditions of many African tribes.

The Name Giraffe Can Be Translated as “Fast-Walker”

Have you ever wondered how giraffes got their name? The earliest known origin of their name comes from the Arabic word zarafa (زرافة), which could have been borrowed from an African language. This early name can be translated as “fast-walker”. In Middle English, giraffes have been known also as “jarraf”, “ziraph” and “gerfauntz”. The modern English term giraffe developed much later, around 1600, from the French word “girafe”.
The giraffe’s species name is camelopardalis and it originates from Latin. It derives from an archaic English name for the giraffe “camelopard”, which was given to giraffes because they resembled both camels and leopards.

Giraffes Can Reach Speeds of 37 mph

Even though giraffes appear slow and clumsy at first sight, they are actually quite quick. Giraffe facts show that giraffes can reach a sprint speed of up to 37 mph and can sustain a speed of 31 mph for several miles.

When a giraffe walks, it moves the legs on one side of the body at the same time and then does the same on the other side of the body. When a giraffe gallops, it moves its hind legs around its front legs, and then moves its front legs forward. Sounds complicated? Not for a giraffe – its head and neck help maintain its balance while running, so it actually looks pretty elegant.

Contrary to Popular Belief, Giraffes Do Make Noises

Think for a second – do you know what kind of sound does a giraffe make? That’s okay, most people don’t – but not because giraffes are so silent. Whilst it is often believed that giraffes do not make any sounds, this is not true at all – giraffes hiss, moan, snort and make flute-like sounds. They are also capable of producing low pitch noises, which are beyond the range of human hearing. Giraffe babies are even louder: they bleat and make mewing calls.

Giraffes Eat up to 100 lb. of Food per Day

If you think you eat a lot, you can rest assured that giraffes eat a lot more than you do – an adult giraffe spends most of its day eating, so it can consume up to 100 lb. of leaves and twigs every single day. They most enjoy the acaciacommiphoracombretum and terminalia leaves, but they also eat shrubs, grass and fruit. And when they are feeling stressed, giraffes sometimes chew the bark off branches. Although giraffes are vegetarian (in animals, this is called herbivorous), they sometimes feed off carcasses and lick dried meat off bones.

Giraffes Are Ruminants and Have 4 Stomachs

We have already established that giraffes spend most of their time eating, but even when they are not eating, they are still busy with their food. Giraffes are ruminants, just like cows and many other animals, so they are forced to spend lots of time moving their food around between their four stomachs and their mouth.

When a giraffe finishes its meal, it is by no means done with it. It swallows the food, which is then transferred into the first stomach for processing, and then returned back into the mouth for another round of chewing, after which it is ready to pass through the rest of the digestive system.

A Giraffe Can Reach up to 20 Feet in Height

You probably already knew that giraffes are extremely tall, but you most likely did not imagine that a fully grown giraffe can reach heights of between 16 and 20 feet. Males are usually taller and heavier than females; while the average weight for a male giraffe is around
2,500 lb. for an adult male, the average for an adult female is around 1,800 lb. And the records? The heaviest male giraffe ever discovered weighed 4,250 lb. and the heaviest female was 2,600 lb.

The Giraffe’s Neck Accounts for Much of Its Height

Despite the fact that giraffes are extremely tall, their bodies are actually relatively short. Most of their height can be attributed to their extremely elongated necks, which can measure up to almost 7 feet in length. However, one of the most surprising giraffe facts reveals that giraffes have the exact same number of cervical vertebra as humans. How is that possible? Giraffes’ vertebrae are disproportionately longer; each cervical vertebra is over 11 inches in length.

Holy Moly, Even the Giraffe’s Tongue Is Extremely Long

When it comes to giraffes, everything is long – even their tongues. Giraffes’ tongues can measure up to 21 inches, and their color is a mixture of black, blue and purple. This is mainly to avoid sun burn – since giraffes spend lots of time eating, their tongues are exposed the sun’s rays much of the time. Giraffes have their long tongues for a reason: they help them with eating thorny acacia trees and pluck tasty morsels from branches.

The Giraffe’s Height Is Not Always an Advantage

Even though the giraffe’s height enables it to reach food that other animals can’t, and to maintain a great overview of its surroundings to avoid predators, it can also cause some problems. For example, since the giraffe’s neck is too short to reach the ground, it has to awkwardly spread its front legs or even kneel to the ground to reach water. Fortunately, giraffes are not big drinkers; they get most of their liquids from the leaves that they eat, so a giraffe only needs to drink every couple of days. But when it does drink, it takes things seriously: giraffe facts show that they have been known to drink up to 12 gallons in one single setting.

Giraffes Can Sleep for as Little as 10 Minutes a Day

It makes sense – they spend all that time eating and ruminating, so they do not really have time to sleep! Giraffe facts show that they have one of the shortest sleep requirements among all mammals, and that they only sleep for between 10 minutes and 2 hours per day. They often only take quick naps, which last for a minute or two at a time.

And, since their sleep sessions are so short, there really is no need to lie down. Giraffes often sleep standing up, but sometimes lie down with their feet tucked underneath their body and their head resting on their hind.

Giraffe Babies Do Not Receive a Very Warm Welcome to the World

Since giraffes do almost everything standing up, why should giving birth be any different! Giraffe facts show that they give birth standing up, which does not sound like such a big deal at first. However, once you consider an average giraffe’s height, you can imagine that a giraffe baby is welcomed into the world with quite a bang – literally, since it drops around 6 feet to the ground. But don’t worry, baby giraffes are usually not hurt during this process.

Giraffe calves are tough from the very beginning: they are born more than 6 feet tall (taller than most adult humans!) and weigh around 150 lb. They are able to stand about an hour and a half after they are born and are already running around with their mother about 10 hours after birth. They spend most of their time in nursery groups until they are about 5 months old, playing and discovering the world in the company of other young giraffes.

No 2 Giraffes Look Exactly the Same

Giraffes are well-known for their beautiful spotted coats, but their coats do not only differentiate when it comes to different subspecies – they are also what tells each individual giraffe apart from the others. No two giraffes have exactly the same pattern on their coats; they are completely unique, like human fingerprints or snowflakes.

But giraffes’ coats are more than just decoration; they also serve as a great camouflage that protects giraffes from their predators. When giraffes are standing in front of trees and bushes, the coloring of their fur helps them blend in with the background. But even though giraffes’ coats are very useful, they are also quite stinky. Giraffes’ long necks prevent them from grooming their body, so their skin and coat secrete certain chemicals that repel insects and disinfect the skin. These chemicals tend to have a rather unpleasant smell, which humans can actually smell from over 800 feet away.

Giraffes Have Some Really Great Friends

Do you know that feeling when you have a big, nasty bug on your back and you just cannot reach it? Giraffes know it, too – well, at least they did. Then they became friends with the oxpecker birds. These birds are happy to give giraffes a helping hand – they eat the bothersome bugs off their backs and thus help keep giraffes bug-free.

Male Giraffes Sometimes Fight over Female Giraffes

As with many other species, male giraffes often fight over females – but giraffes do this in an incredibly charming way. The whole process is called “necking” and it includes two male giraffes standing side by side with one giraffe swinging its head and neck, hitting against the other giraffe. These fights may appear cute, and the image of necking is often used on Valentine’s Day cards; however, the fights can last up to 20 minutes and things can get so heated that one of the giraffes ends up on the ground.

Giraffes Have a Very Bizarre Mating Ritual

One of the most bizarre giraffe facts reveals that giraffes have one of the weirdest mating rituals in the animal kingdom. First of all, male giraffes rarely get the chance to show their mating abilities, since the female giraffes refuse to mate during the entire duration of their pregnancy, which lasts around 14 months. In between pregnancies, females are only ready to mate for a short period every two weeks. To determine whether the female is ready for mating, giraffes have developed a behavior called “flehmen”, in which the female urinates into the male’s mouth. Her urine tastes differently when she is ready to mate and the male can taste that. So, unless that very specific taste is present, the male will leave the female alone…

Giraffes Have Played an Important Role When It Comes to Space Travel

Giraffes and space travel don’t seem to have much in common, but these tall creatures have actually played an important role when it comes to our quests into the great unknown. One of the biggest problems of space travel is weightlessness, which significantly impacts on the human body and causes many problems, such as weakening of leg veins. Giraffes have a special solution for that – they have rapidly inflating leg veins, which enable baby giraffes to stand up very quickly after birth. NASA spent some time observing this and was consequently able to develop the Lower Body Negative Pressure process through a device with an airtight tube that seals around the astronaut below the waist and applies vacuum pressure. This pressure rapidly expands leg veins and helps blood rush into the leg and pelvic areas, which allows the astronauts’ leg veins to stay in shape.

Giraffe Facts — Facts about Giraffes Summary

Giraffes, officially named giraffa camelopardalis, have nine subspecies, which are differentiated mainly by their distinctive coat patterns. They are mammals and herbivores with an average lifespan of 25 years. They most often live in savannas in Africa, although they can be found all around the world in zoos and animal parks. Their conservation status is currently listed as “least concern”; unfortunately, this could change in the near future as some subspecies are already endangered. Giraffes are the tallest terrestrial animals – their height can be up to 20 feet and is mostly due to their extremely elongated neck.

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