Family: †††††††††††††††††† Giraffidae.
Status:†††††††††††††††††††† No special status.
Size:††††††††††††††††††††††† 12 to 18 ft tall, 1,500 to 4250 lbs.††
Offspring:††††††††††††††† One calf.
∑ Giraffes have excellent eyesight and because of their height, can see for miles.
∑ The scientific name means: giraffa (one who walks swiftly), camelopardalis (camel marked like a leopard).
∑ Giraffes can gallop at speeds up of to 30 mph.
∑ Ancient Egyptian art frequently featured giraffe designs.
∑ Giraffes are one of the few animals born with horns.
The tallest land mammals, giraffes feed on the leaves of trees, especially acacia and mimosa, using their strong lips and long tongue to rip leaves from their stems. They donít drink often, because of the precarious position they assume, spreading their front legs wide while bending over from the shoulder for a drink. This may be why they also donít graze on grass or low plants for food. Although the giraffe goes for several days at a time without taking a drink, they get an adequate amount of moisture from the leaves they eat. Most mammals have seven vertebrae in their necks, and giraffes are no different, except that theirs are elongated in order to hold up their long, muscular necks. When they sleep, they often remain in a standing position, just like horses, in order to be ready to run at a momentís notice from predators. When confronted by a lion, giraffes use their strong legs to kick at it, and are capable of kicking a lion to death. They never use their horns against predatorsómales only use their horns in competitions with other giraffes, and females never use theirs because they never spar or fight.
Giraffe are social animals who live in herds of up to 40 to 50 animals, south of the Sahara desert. They donít migrate and theyíre not territorial. The herds are either mostly male or mostly female and juveniles.† They spend most of the day feeding and donít group together unless a lion is nearby. Mothers with calves keep closer together than most other giraffes and take turns watching each otherís youngsters.
During mating season, males will compete with other males for females by butting their necks and heads against each other. A male shows his interest in a female by following her around, ribbing his head on her backside, licking her, and resting his neck on her back. The female shows her interest by swishing her tail rapidly, circling and sniffing the male. The pregnancy lasts 15 months and the giraffe usually gives birth standing up, so the newborn drops about 6 feet to the ground. Newborns are 6 feet tall, 100 pounds and can stand up 20 minutes after birth but lie down for much of the day and night, resting while the mother guards the baby vigilantly from lion or hyena attacks. The horns of the newborn giraffes lie flat against their skull, but pop up within the first week. Calves nurse for up to a year, and become able to totally feed themselves by 16 months. The males stay in the herd for up to three years before leaving to join a group of males. The females stay with their motherís herd for life. Life expectancy is 20 to 25 years.