Giraffe (Latin Giraffa camelopardalis) is an artiodactyl mammal from the giraffe family. It is the tallest land animal with the longest neck.
The height of this animal is 5 to 6 meters (16-19 feet). And a third of the length falls on the neck, which consists of 7 elongated cervical vertebrae. The muscles in the neck are very powerful, as they have to support enormous weight.
The maximum weight of adult males reaches 1,930 kg (4,250 lb), and that of females is 1,180 kg (2,600 lb). Females always have slightly less height / weight. A baby giraffe is about two meters (2.0 ft) tall, weight – 55 kg (120 lbs)
Despite the height, the giraffes are not dizzy. They have a very large and strong heart. It weighs about 12 kilograms (26 lbs) and drives blood at 3 times the human pressure. The large cervical artery has blocking valves: they cut off the return blood flow to maintain pressure. The blood of giraffes is very thick. If it were not for this feature, a sharp lowering or raising of the animal’s head would be fatal to the brain.
The giraffe looks funny, because on the head with small ears there are two horn-like structures covered with wool. Horns are present in both sexes. In females, the horns are thinner and have tassels. In males, they are thicker, and the coat is smoother. Occasionally, giraffes have two pairs of horns. On the forehead, giraffes often have a convex bony outgrowth that looks like a horn. The giraffe looks charming, because its huge black eyes have thick eyelashes. The giraffe has a thin long tail, with a black tassel at the end and a small short mane on the neck.
Giraffes have good eyesight, hearing and smell, such abilities help them notice danger in time. And of course, the large growth of giraffes allows you to have a good view of the area. Giraffes can see each other up to a kilometer away. The giraffe’s tongue is dark in color, often tinged with purple. The giraffe’s tongue is 45 cm (1.5 ft) long and helps the animal to grasp the branches. The long neck of the giraffe allows it to reach the highest crowns.
The legs of the giraffe are strong and high, while the front legs are longer than the hind legs. Giraffes run fast. If necessary, the speed of a giraffe at a gallop can reach 55 km/h (35 mph).
All over the body of the giraffe there are large, medium and small spots. This drawing is individual for each giraffe, as are the fingerprints of people.
All giraffes are spotted. The color changes depending on the habitat. The subtypes of giraffes are colored differently. The spots cover the entire body of the animal and do not change throughout life. However, the coat may take on different shades due to changes in climatic conditions, health and seasons.
The homeland of these giants is Africa. They live in its arid parts. Previously, the African continent was full of giraffes. All over the flat surface, many species of animals could be found. Now they can only be seen in certain areas. Today, giraffes live south and southeast of the Sahara, in savannas and woodlands, primarily in eastern and southern Africa.
In the 20th century, the number of giraffes declined significantly due to uncontrolled hunting, various diseases and destruction of the natural habitat. Today, the largest number of giraffes lives in the protected areas of national parks. Giraffes are one of the few animals that do well in captivity and breed regularly.
How do giraffes sleep?
Giraffes sleep little; Of all mammals, they are the least in need of sleep. On average, a giraffe sleeps no more than 2 hours a day. But sometimes it is enough for them to take a nap for 10 minutes. Giraffes can sleep while standing. In the supine position, the sleeping giraffe flexes its neck, bends its legs, and rests its head on its back.
How old do giraffes live?
In nature, these animals live up to 25 years, in zoos up to 30–35 years.
Each subspecies differs in color nuances and areas of permanent habitation. After much debate, biologists came to the conclusion about the existence of 9 subspecies, between which crossing is sometimes possible.
Modern subspecies of giraffe (with range zones):
- Angolan giraffe – Botswana and Namibia;
- Kordofan giraffe – Central African Republic and western Sudan;
- Thornycroft’s giraffe – Zambia;
- West African giraffe – now only in Chad (formerly all of West Africa);
- Masai giraffe – Tanzania and southern Kenya;
- Nubian giraffe – west of Ethiopia and east of Sudan;
- Reticulated giraffe – southern Somalia and northern Kenya
- Rothschild giraffe (Ugandan giraffe) – Uganda;
- South African giraffe – South Africa, Mozambique and Zimbabwe.
The giraffe is a herbivore. They eat exclusively plant foods. Due to the structure of the body and physiology, giraffes eat the foliage of tree crowns located at a considerable height, where there is no competition. Giraffes eat acacia, giving the greatest preference to this tree.
Giraffes live in small herds or singly. There is no strict attachment in the herds. Everyone can freely leave the herd or also freely move to another. The size of the herd varies depending on the season and can range from 4 to 32 individuals. A herd of giraffes can consist of both individuals of different sexes and of the same sex. Quite often you can see giraffes, which move along with herds of antelopes or zebras. This way they are safer.
Reproduction and offspring
Giraffes are polygamous animals. Females become capable of breeding at the age of 3-4 years, but for the first time they produce offspring by 5 years. In males, the breeding period begins at the age of 4-5 years. Young males find it difficult to compete with older males. Therefore, young animals can acquire offspring only by the age of 7 years.
The mating season for giraffes is from July to September. The gestation period for a giraffe is 14-15 months. Usually only one baby giraffe is born. Giraffes give birth while standing, and therefore the baby giraffe at birth falls from a height of about 2 meters. You should not worry, the baby giraffe does not receive any injuries when falling.
An hour after birth, the cub is already on its feet, and after a few more hours it can run. Giraffe cubs are allowed into the common herd only after a few weeks, while they begin to eat grass. But a baby giraffe will feed on its mother’s milk until almost 1 year old.
Due to its large size, the giraffe has practically no natural enemies. Giraffes defend themselves from predators by striking with their front hooves. Such a blow is capable of breaking the skull of any predator, although there are cases of victory of predators over giraffes.