The giraffe is a genus of African even-toed ungulate mammals, the tallest living terrestrial animals and the largest ruminants. The genus currently consists of one species, Giraffa camelopardalis, the type species. Seven other species are extinct, prehistoric species known from fossils. Taxonomic classifications of one to eight extant giraffe species have been described, based upon research into the mitochondrial and nuclear DNA, as well as morphological measurements of Giraffa, but the IUCN currently recognizes only one species with nine subspecies. Check out some cute facts about these gentle giants!
1. Giraffes are the tallest animals in the world. Males can grow up to 18 feet (5.5 meters) tall, females can reach 14 feet (4.3 meters) tall and their babies, called calves, are born six feet (1.8 meters) tall. Calves can grow up to an inch a day.
2. Male giraffes engage in a ritualized display of dominance called “necking” that involves head-butting each other’s bodies.
3. Unlike horses and most other quadrupeds, giraffes walk by moving both legs on the same side of their body together. So, the left front and the left hind legs step and then the right front and the right hind legs step.
4. Baby giraffes play together in a crèche for the first five months of their lives. Their mothers will usually be out hunting food.
5. A giraffe can move at only two speeds – walk and gallop.
6. Even though a giraffe has a longer neck than all other mammals, it still only has seven vertebrae in its neck, which is the same amount as other animals.
7. Through the years, giraffes have been greatly loved and honoured by humans. In ancient Egyptian art, they were often depicted as creatures of great power and strength.
8. Giraffes have amazing eyesight, which means that they can wander away from one another but find their way back very easily.
9. Male giraffes and female giraffes eat from different parts of the same tree. This is to prevent competition between the males and females.
10. When females need to go and hunt food, one of them will stay behind and babysit the young giraffes.
11. A giraffe’s tongue is blue-back to protect it from sunburn in hot climates.
12. Famous toy manufacturer, Toys ‘R’ Us, chose a cartoon giraffe as their mascot in the 1950’s. His name was Geoffrey the Giraffe, but he was first known as Dr. G. Raffe.
13. Ever wondered what sound a giraffe makes? These animals often snort and hiss, but can also make very low sounds which are impossible for humans to hear.
14. Giraffes are able to drink up to 10 gallons of water each day, and also get water from the plants they eat, including acacias.
15. A giraffe’s heart weighs around 11kg, compared to a human heart which weighs between 0.2-0.45kg.