Matt's World of Wicked Giraffes -
Updated 3-5-05
Tallest of all mammals, the giraffe attains an overall height of 18 feet (5.5 meters) or more. An unmistakable animal, it has a comparatively short body and very long legs and neck.
Head to shoulder length is approximately 13' for the male. Shoulder height is 8-12', overall height 15-19'. Weight is 1,100-2,800 lbs.

The back slopes downward to the hindquarters, and the neck, despite its length, contains only the seven vertebrae typical of most mammals including man.

The tail measures up to one yard with a terminal tuft of stiff, black hair. Males and females have stiff manes on their neck.

Two to four short, skin covered horns are present in both sexes and there is a central swelling, between the eyes, which in northern giraffes is almost as long as the horns.
These bones are present at birth in the form of small knobs of cartilage covered with skin and hair which become bony nodules with age.

They have long prehensile tongues (like hands) that measure 18-21 inches long. The inner part of the tongue is pink in color, and then changes to a purplish-black color for the last 6 inches that are commonly visible.

The coat is pale buff, covered to a greater or lesser extent with reddish-brown spots that range from regular and geometric in some forms to irregular and blotchy, or leaf-shaped, in others. Many subspecies have been described based on coat pattern and the size and number of horns.

It feeds primarily on thorny acacia (a-kay-sha) leaves; they also consume twigs and bark. Their prehensile tounges and leathery mouths enable them to gather these treats. Giraffes do get thirsty, but it is almost difficult for them. To reach the ground or to drink, it must bend or spread its fore legs very far, looking like they are about to fall. Going for a month without water is also possible as an adaptation to long drought periods in their native areas.

Giraffes have high blood pressure (240/160) for pumping blood to the brain.
The carotid artery that carries blood from the heart to the head is thick, muscular and elastic, ballooning when the giraffe stoops to absorb increase in pressure. When the giraffe raises its head, a series of check valves in the inch-wide jugular vein prevents a sudden back flow from the emptying brain.

Its gait, because of its long stride, is swifter than it appears; about 30 miles (48 kilometers) per hour is reached at a gallop.

Giraffes usually sleep standing up for 20 minutes at a time.

Giraffes are non-seasonal breeders, usually producing one precocial calf after a gestation period of 14-15 months.
Birth height is 5-6', birth weight is 87-107 lbs. They become sexually mature between 3 and 4 years of age and have a life span of about 25 years (30+ in captivity). Full body size is not reached until age five.

The giraffe has keen sight, smell, and hearing. They may see red-orange, yellow-green, purple, green and blue as colors.

Its main predator, other than the human being, is the lion. Fortunately, when defending itself, the giraffe kicks with its heavy hooves, which are powerful enough to take lion's head off, and slams with its head. Other predators are leopards (prey on young) and lions. Giraffes are most vulnerable to predators when drinking or lying down.

Males fight among themselves by swimming their heads at one another, it is quite funny. Herds are small and loosely constructed of 5-15 individuals, consisting of one bull with females and young. Other bulls are solitary or in pairs.

The voice of the giraffe has so rarely been heard that the animal is popularly supposed to be voiceless. They may grunt of snort when alarmed, females may whistle to call their young, and calves can bleat.

The giraffe lives in herds in Savanna and open bush country and is native to most of Africa south of the Sahara.
Still numerous in East Africa, where it is protected, the giraffe elsewhere has dwindled in number or has been exterminated because of hunting by man.

Matt's World of Wicked Giraffes -