Monday, August 1, 2011

On Critters Tall

Giraffes are herbivorous mammals found in Central and South Africa.  The giraffe is a ruminant, which means he has a four chambered stomach and vomits up food to rechew.  You know, they chew their cud.  Favorite cud: Acacia leaves.  The giraffe's long neck allows him to easily reach greenery in tall trees.  Remarkably, that long neck has the same number of vertebrae as the short necked human:  seven.

Some Giraffe Facts

-average male (bull) height (measured to the horn tip): 18 feet
-average female (cow) height: 14 feet  
-bull weight: 1800-4300 pounds
-cow weight:  1200-2600 pounds
- gestation: 15 months
- top speed: 35 mph
- average lifespan: 25 years
- tongue length:  21 inches
- enemies: lion, hyena and leopard

Giraffes aren't herd animals in the same way as, say, elephants or wildebeest.  Groups of giraffes vary from as few as six to as many as forty members.  The cows often create a group when their calves are young, taking turns feeding while the others baby sit.  Bull giraffes aren't involved much, hands on - so to speak, other than in mating.

Cows give birth standing up, which means the baby's arrival is a rough one.  He quite literally drops in.  In good giraffe tradition, the calf stands up quickly and within 15 minutes is walking.  Babies are about 6 feet tall at birth and weigh 150 pounds.  One year later they are 12 feet tall.

Both males and females have horns, which are formed from ossified cartilage.  The females have tuffs or hair on top of the horns, males are bald. 

Nobody knows for sure, but it is believed that giraffes cannot swim. (Of course, Bumblebees aren't supposed to be able to fly either, so this is one of those nifty mysteries that we can speculate wildly about should we wish to do so).

Giraffes are not highly vocal but they aren't silent either.  Males make a loud coughing sound during courtship.  Females whistle to call to their young.  Calves bleat, moo and mew.  Miscellaneous giraffe vocalizations include grunts, snorts, hisses and flute-like sounds.

One species of Acacia tree germinate only after seeds pass through a giraffe's digestive track.

sources:, Tall Blondes by Lynn Sherr


  1. That's amazing about the number of vertebrae! Funny how differently the same parts can be put together.

  2. I love giraffes but never knew much about them. Thanks!

  3. Thanks Lynn, I love the tall fellows. My favorite book as a small tyke was Jerry the Giraffe. I still have the scribbled book. We have a desert zoo out here with giraffes called The Living Desert and the giraffes eat those spiky trees with thorns on them as if they were nothing!

  4. I think giraffes are fascinating. I never knew they made sounds. Thanks.

  5. Wow, that's amazing! My daughter will love reading this too, she loves learning about all things animals, thanks!

  6. Thanks for the facts! There's quite a bit I've learned here. They're fascinating animals.