Top 10 Fact About Giraffe
1.The giraffe is the tallest mammal in the world, standing at around 4-5m high, and the tallest giraffes ever recorded have been up to 5.9m. That’s over a meter higher than a double-decker bus.It shouldn’t come as a huge surprise that such a large animal weighs quite a lot as well – up to 1900kg, which is more than most cars! One of our favourite giraffe facts is that they’re probably the biggest pollinators in the world thanks to their great height. As they wander around feeding from the tops of trees, they inadvertently transfer genetic material on their muzzles from the flowers of one tree to those of another.
2. Despite being incredibly tall, giraffes still only have seven vertebrae in their necks – which means a giraffe neck has the exact same number of bones as a human neck!
3.A giraffe’s neck is too short to reach the ground. As a result, it has to awkwardly shuffle and spread its front legs to reach the ground for a drink of water.Fortunately giraffes only need to drink once every few days, as they can get most of their water from all the plants they eat.
4. A fully grown giraffe can raise or lower its head by up to 5m, so it might actually pass out were it not for a dense network of fine capillaries (the ‘rete mirabile’) that cushions its brain against rapid changes in blood pressure.Other adaptations to prevent sudden giraffe collapse are valves to stop the back-flow of blood and elastic-walled vessels that dilate and constrict to manage flow. NASA has even done research on the blood vessels in giraffe legs to get inspiration for human space suits.
5.Unlike most other four-legged mammals like horses, giraffes swing both legs on the same side at almost the same time during their walk, known as ‘pacing’. Camels walk in the same way, and you’ll feel the sideways motion if you ever ride one.When a giraffe breaks into a gallop, its odd walk disappears and it runs in a more ‘normal’ way.
6.Giraffe feet are the size of a dinner plate with a diameter of 30cm. These huge hooves prevent giraffes from sinking into loose sand despite their great weight.
7.Both male and female giraffes have ‘horns’ at birth. More properly known as ‘ossicones’, they lie flat and are not attached to the skull to avoid injury at birth. They only fuse with the skull later in life.Giraffe horns become formidable weapons in adult males, worn bare of skin at the tips – old bulls may even have patches of bare bone elsewhere on their massive, craggy heads.
8.A giraffe giving birth is a bit of a worrying sight if you haven’t seen it before – female giraffes give birth standing up, so the first thing a baby giraffe knows is a 2-metre fall to the ground. Despite the bumpy start, baby giraffes can stand up within an hour of birth.Giraffes usually only have a single baby, born after a 15-month gestation period. But because they’re able to breed all year round, giraffes don’t need to ‘resynchronise’ with the seasons each time they give birth.Sadly, about 50% of giraffe calves do not survive their first year.
9.Just like human fingerprints, no two giraffes have the same pattern. Researchers who spend long enough studying the same giraffes eventually find that they can recognise dozens or even hundreds of individuals from their patterns.
10.Giraffe tongues are huge! They’re bluish-purple, prehensile and between 45-50cm long – perfect for carefully ripping fresh leaves from between the spikes at the top of acacia trees.