The Giraffe is the tallest living animal and can reach vegetation that other herbivores can not. Giraffes eat foliage (broad leafed deciduous and evergreen), grass, shrubs and fruit, and don’t require a lot of water. Their favorite food is the acacia tree. A giraffe browses most of the day, eating anywhere from 15 to 65 pounds. At night they lie down to rest and ruminate.
There are 9 subspecies of giraffe. Giraffes live in Africa in arid and dry-savanna areas where trees occur. They live in loose herds with no specific leaders. Their height makes it easy for them to spot predators from a distance, so if one signals danger, they all run.
Adult males weigh 2420 to 4250 pounds, females 1540 to 2600 pounds. Males are 9 to 11 feet at the shoulder and 18 to 19 feet at the top of their horns. Females are about 2 feet shorter.
When giraffes walk they move both right legs forward, then both left. When running, however, the back legs come forward on the outside of the front legs.
Baby giraffes are born while their mother is standing, so fall to the ground at birth. In about 20 minutes the calf can stand and are about 6 feet tall. Calves can grow as much as an inch a day and double their height in a year. 50 to 75% of calves are killed by lions and spotted hyenas during the first few months of life.
Fun Giraffe Facts
- Giraffes were once thought to be a cross between a camel and a leopard, which resulted in their scientific name of Giraffa camelopardalis.
- To establish dominance males swing their heads at one another in tests of strength. This is called “necking.”
- As they age, giraffes’ fur darkens. - A giraffe only has 7 vertebrae in a neck that can be 5 feet long.
- The reticulated giraffe (north Kenya) has a latticework of thin lines that separates the dark patches.
- Besides being prehensile, a giraffe tongue can be 18 inches long!
African Wildlife Foundation
Animal Diversity Web