This article tells you some amazing facts about giraffes. Read on to find out:
1. Their name comes from a word that means one who walks fast.
A long time ago, people used to call giraffes camelopards as they thought giraffes were a cross-breed between leopards and camels. The name Giraffe came from an old Arabic word Xiapha. It means one that runs fast. The scientific name for giraffes is Giraffa camelopardalis.
Male giraffes are called bulls while the females are called cows.
2. Giraffes are the tallest of all living animals.
The only animals that can contest with giraffes in height are the already extinct legendary dinosaurs. Bull giraffes can grow to about 16 to 20 feet (490cm – 600cm) tall. Their legs can be between 8 to 10 feet (245cm – 300cm) long while their necks about 6 to 7 feet (180cm – 215cm) long.
Cows are usually about 2 to 3 feet (60cm – 90cm) shorter than bull giraffes.
A male giraffe can be three times taller than an adult human and two times taller than a male camel.
3. Their neck is composed of very long bones.
The bones in a giraffe’s neck are at least 25 cm (10 inches) long. They are the reason why the giraffe’s neck is always stiff.
The skin on a giraffe’s knees is so hard that the giraffe does not feel pain when resting on a stony ground.
Their tongues can grow up to 50cm (20 inches) long. They use their tongues and upper lips to pull leaves from trees.
4. The pattern of spots on one giraffe’s body can never be identical to another giraffe.
Each giraffe has a unique pattern of spots completely different from another giraffe. It is believed that no two giraffes share the same pattern of spots.
A giraffe’s spots help make it hard for enemies to see the giraffe. There is only one species of giraffe, but there are many sub-species. All sub-sub-species of giraffe can only be found in Africa. It is quite easy to tell the sub-species of giraffe by its fur and spots although due to the mix-up and mating of different groups, it’s becoming hard to do so.
The sub-species and shade of spots are:
- Masai giraffe; dark chocolate jagged edge spots on a yellow coat. They live in Kenya and Tanzania.
- Baringo/Rothschild giraffe; deep brown blotchy rectangular spots on a cream coat. They live in Uganda and Kenya.
- Nubian giraffe; large four-sided chestnut brown spots on an off-white coat. They can be found Sudan and Congo.
- Cape giraffe; dark brown rounded blotch spots on a tan coat. They live in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Mozambique.
- Reticulated giraffe; large squared red-brown spots on a white coat. They are found in Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia.
Other giraffes are:
- Kordofan giraffe live in Sudan.
- Nigerian giraffes live in Chad.
- Angolan giraffes live in Angola and Zambia.
- Thorniroft giraffes live in Zambia.
5. They can move as fast as 56km per hour.
When they walk, they push both legs on one side of their body forward and then both legs on the other side. When they run fast or gallop they swing both back legs forward at the same time, the back legs land outside the front legs which enable them to obtain a speed of about 56km (35 miles) per hour.
6. Feeding and other characteristics
- Giraffes have to lower their necks to drink. They can go for weeks without drinking water.
- They eat leaves and use 16 – 20 hours each day eating.
- Giraffes make very low grunting sounds that are hard to be heard by people. It was believed before now that giraffes made no sound at all.
- They give birth to babies as they are mammals. Their babies had to drop up to 1.8m (6 feet) to reach the ground as the mothers give birth to their babies standing up. Baby giraffes are called calves and weigh 68kg at birth. They stand 1.8m tall.
- Most giraffes live for about 25 years.