- Giraffes are even-toed ungulates which means they have an even number of toes on each hoof. They are related to cattle and deer and their closest relative is the okapi.
- Giraffes are the tallest of all animals that live on land. Males can reach a height of 19 feet and weigh close to 4,200 pounds, and the females are smaller than males. The legs of a giraffe are also unusual. Their front legs are approximately 10% longer than their rear legs. They can run extremely fast for a short amount of time.
- Giraffes have spots that cover their entire body except their bellies. The spots on each giraffe are very distinct, much like our fingerprints.
- Both the male and female giraffes have horns. The females’ horns have small tufts of hair on the end. Even though giraffes have an extremely long neck, it is only made up of seven vertebrae, like all other mammals. The vertebrae, however, form very flexible joints which allows the giraffe to reach food high up in the trees.
- The giraffes long neck also gives them the best view of the surrounding area, and they can spot predators that are approaching from a long distance away.
- Giraffes have a tongue that is able to grasp and hold items. This type of tongue is call prehensile. It also allows them to curl their tongue around leaves and branches high up in trees.
- Giraffes require the least amount of sleep of any animal. They only need between 10 minutes and 2 hours of sleep a day.
- Giraffes live in Africa. They live mostly on savannas and grasslands. Their favorite food, acacia, is a small tree or shrub that has small yellow flowers. Giraffes also drink large amounts of water which allows them to spend long periods of time in places that are extremely dry.
- Giraffe perform a behavior called necking. Necking duels occur when males fight. Giraffe use their heads to strike a blow and they also use their necks to show affection toward another giraffe. Giraffes are normally quiet animals. They do not have only one distinct sound that they make. They will, however, cough, whistle, bellow, moo, grunt, snort and hiss.
- Female giraffes have only one calf and carry the calf between 14 to 15 months before it’s born. The baby giraffe spends the first two weeks of its life lying on the ground which makes it very vulnerable to predators. The mother giraffe protects her baby and will receive help from the other females in the herd. Less than half of all the calves that are born will reach adulthood. A giraffe can live to be 28 years old.
- Lions are the only natural predator that poses a threat to an adult giraffe. The lion will try and knock the giraffe off its feet, making it very vulnerable. However, one strong kick from a giraffe can shatter a lion’s skull or break its back. People hunt giraffes for their skin, meat and tail.
- Giraffes are also threatened as their habitat continues to get smaller. An unusual threat to giraffes that are kept in captivity occurs because of their height. Giraffes are vulnerable to lightning strikes.
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