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Giraffes

Houston, TX
giraffe, reticulated giraffe,
Giraffe

Everyone knows that the tallest land animal in the world is the Giraffe (Giraffa Camelopardalis). The name giraffe comes from an Arab word, zarāfah, which translates to “fast walker”. Some also called the giraffe, a “camel-leopard” because they believed giraffes were a mix between a camel and a leopard; that’s where the name Camelopardalis comes from. A giraffe is so tall that it could peak through a second story window without having to stand on its tiptoes!


A giraffe is 6 feet tall at birth, as tall as a full-grown man! Its neck alone can grow up to 6 feet long and weighs 600 pounds (272 kilograms). They have the same number of vertebrae as humans, but each is over 10 inches long. Their legs can grow up to 6 feet (1.8 meters) long. The hind legs look shorter than the fore legs, but they are not. Its heart measures up to 2 feet (0.6 meters) long, and weighs about 25 pounds. Giraffes have three hearts. Its lungs can hold 12 gallons (55 liters) of air! Their tail is about 3 feet long and they use it to swat flies.


giraffe, tongue out, giraffe licking,
Giraffe with its tongue out

A Giraffe’s tongue is half a meter long and is either gray, black, or purple for a few inches long to protect against sunburn. They also use it to lick their nose. Their tongue is also prehensile, like a monkey's tail.


Cool Fact: Giraffe’s tongue is adapted to the thorns of their favorite food, acacia leaves. Most animals can’t reach acacia leaves or have tongues that can’t deal with the viscous thorns. So, the giraffe has almost no competition over the leaves, they also have thick saliva to protect against the thorns they might swallow.

thorns in acacia leaves
Acacia Leaves

Additionally, they know to be cautious as they feed on those leaves. Giraffes get most of their water from the leaves they eat. They drink water as well, but the position they are in while drinking water makes it the most vulnerable position for a giraffe.




Do all these make you wonder why giraffes have such long necks?


Giraffe clubs the other with its long neck
Giraffe fighting

Well, when they have fights, their head acts like a club. So, the longer the neck, the more powerful it is to whip it across the other giraffe and win. Hence, a giraffe with a longer neck is always seen as a strong and powerful one among the group. An offspring of a giraffe with a longer neck will also have a long neck, this makes it a pride factor for giraffes to have longer necks. They eat from higher branches than the other herbivores, except for the elephant, which is helpful, so they eat adequately.. It can also be used as a lookout for predators; if the giraffe runs, so do the other animals.


Do giraffes lie down?

Giraffe Sleeping

The answer is, “Not Exactly!”. They fold their legs and sit down. This is the most comfortable position for a giraffe. They are in this position while sleeping or observing. This is another vulnerable position for giraffes, so they aren’t in it for a long time.



okapi, striped giraffe, giraffe with zebra pattern
Okapi

Giraffes have a rump and different spot patterns; no two giraffes are alike. Their closest relative is an okapi, a small horse-like creature that looks like a mix between a giraffe and a zebra.


No two giraffes have alike design patterns. There are nine subspecies, and each differ by where they live and their spot patterns are different, depending on the subspecies. My personal favorite is the reticulated giraffe, which only lives in Northern Kenya and has brown patches with narrow white lines. Make sure to tell me what your favorite is in the comments!


reticulated giraffe, giraffe
Reticulated Giraffe

People think giraffes make no sound, but they do! They make moos, roars, snorts, hisses, and grunts; however, they sound out very rarely. Scientists even think they vocalize below the level of human hearing.


Giraffes spend most of their day, eating, and wandering. A giraffe spends 5 to 7 hours a day eating. A giraffe’s body usually takes 5 hours to digest a whole meal. A male giraffe walks for an average of 9 hours a day while a female walks for an average of 11 hours. A giraffe only sleeps for around 4 hours a day. Giraffes are fast for their size. A giraffe’s speed is 10 miles per hour while walking but 37 miles per hour while running. Running to its full ability exhausts a giraffe, so they don’t run in their full capacity for a long time unless needed.



calf
calf

The male and female can also be identified by their horns, also known as “Ossicones”. The males usually have thicker horns that are quite bald due to frequent neck fights. The females are thin and tufted. Baby giraffes have not developed their horns yet, but will gain them as they grow. A mother giraffe gives birth to her calf by standing up. The gestation period is about 15 weeks. They usually give birth in a calving ground. The calf stands up within an hour. Males tend to be slightly taller than females. Giraffes usually give birth to only one calf at a time. Twins are recorded very rare. Giraffe calves rely on the mother’s milk for 9 - 12 months. They start eating solid food from about 4 months, which is also the time they ruminate. The calves are most vulnerable the first few months of its life, as they are usually left sitting on grass. Males will leave at 15 months to join all male groups while females stay in their mother’s herd. If they do leave, they leave at 18 months.


Apart from humans, giraffes get hunted by crocodiles and lions. But they really don’t need to hide because of their height, giraffes can spot danger lurking them from farther away. They also live in tight groups and it's hard to pick out one giraffe from a tight knit group. Humans hunt them a lot for their fur. This makes some of the subspecies endangered. Illegal poaching is also a problem, and it is making some giraffe species go from least concern to endangered.


Giraffes are so cool! No wonder they are one of many people’s favorite animals. Their long stride, outrageous eyelashes, and calm expression suggests a lot about nature’s creativity! Like and Comment.


References: giraffeconservation.org


P.S:- This blog is a dedication for my cute and tiny follower, Devesh! :-)


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