28 Amazing Facts You Never Knew About Giraffes

28 Amazing Facts You Never Knew About Giraffes
A close shot of a giraffe licking the back of another giraffe

They’re lanky, move awkwardly, and are incredibly affectionate; giraffes are a favorite of the animal kingdom and with good reason. A wonder of evolution, giraffes are natives to Africa, and they are free to roam the sub-Saharan regions of that massive continent. A herd animal that roams the open savannahs and grasslands of Africa, they use their long necks to keep an eye out for predators. Unfortunately, they are declining in numbers.

Lots of good work is being done to save them and see their return to a more sustainable population figure, and they are slowly making a comeback. Check out these 28 amazing facts about giraffes!

  1. There are four different species of giraffe, although they all used to be considered as a single species. Even in those four types of giraffe, there are several subspecies as well. Giraffes are more varied than you might have thought!
  2. There was a prehistoric giraffe called the Palaeotragus, which was as tall as the giraffes we see nowadays but didn’t have that long neck that has become their most recognizable and distinguished feature.
  3. Male giraffes are called bulls, and female giraffes are called cows!
  4. An adult giraffe can shatter a lion’s skull with a single kick.
  5. Giraffes are herd animals and tend to stay with the same herd for most of their lives.
  6. The biggest threat to giraffes is habitat loss, habitat fragmentation, habitat degradation, human population growth, poaching, disease, war and civil unrest which leads to more hunting, natural destruction.
  7. Giraffes only need about two hours of sleep a day, and they sleep while standing up. They do lie down occasionally, but even then they tend to keep their heads elevated.
  1. A giraffe’s neck is about six feet long and weighs around 600 pounds. Despite the length and weight of that huge neck, they still only have seven vertebrae, which is the same number that humans have.
  2. Giraffes have lungs that have been compared to hot air balloons. Eight times the size of a human adult’s lungs, giraffes breathe much more slowly than us.
  3. Male giraffes grow to be around 18 feet tall. Female giraffes are slightly shorter at just 14 feet. That makes giraffes the tallest mammal on earth!
  4. The heart of a giraffe is a huge muscle that weighs about 25 pounds. It needs to be a big heart because that long neck means blood has to be pumped really hard to get to the brain. They also have valves in their blood cells that help to stop blood from backtracking down the neck.
  5. If you think that giraffes have horns, you’re only half right. Those protrusions on their heads are not real horns, but cartilage that has been covered in skin, called ossicones.
  6. Giraffes have a larynx! They don’t use it very much, but they do make vocal sounds when they spot a threat and have also been heard to hum at night.
  7. It’s not just the giraffe’s neck that is incredibly long. Their eyelashes are famous for being very long as well. They need those luscious lashes because their eyes are so big and they need protection from damage caused by sand.
  8. You can see giraffes in America! In fact, zoos have been working hard on breeding programs for giraffes, and you can see several real-life baby giraffes at a zoo in Florida. While you’re there, you can even take part in the daily giraffe feeding.
  9. If you do go to feed some giraffes, don’t be surprised by a certain musky smell. Giraffes have the nickname of ‘stink bulls’ thanks to the pungent odor that they can emit. That smell is a defense against insects and other types of parasites, and might also play a part in mating.
  10. Not only have giraffes been seen picking their own nose, but the fact that they do so using their tongues is also both awesome and disgusting.
  11. Giraffes use their necks to fight! A giraffe’s neck is a powerful weapon, and male giraffes often fight by swinging their necks at each other. These can cause a surprising amount of damage because they have very heavy skulls that can be slammed with a lot of neck power into rivals.
  12. Giraffes go through a pregnancy that lasts 15 months. They give birth while standing, so the newborn baby giraffe drops a bit of a height before landing on the ground. Baby giraffes can usually walk by themselves within an hour of being born, and even a newborn giraffe is taller than the average human.
  13. An adult giraffe will eat just over 65 pounds of food every single day.
  14. A giraffes tongue is prehensile. That means that it can grip things (just like an elephant trunk). They use that grip to pull leaves from trees more easily.
  15. A giraffe is so tall that their necks aren’t long enough to reach the ground without splaying their legs and kneeling.
  16. Giraffes can drink up to ten gallons of water at a time! That’s extremely useful in dry zones where they live, and giraffes are often compared to camels when it comes to how long they can go without a drink.
  17. The stomach of a giraffe has four chambers. The main one is used to break down their plant food and turn it into energy.
  18. Giraffes are listed as ‘vulnerable’ on the Endangered Species List, and can now no longer be found in many of their traditional habitats.
  19. Giraffes are herbivores, but they have been seen sucking and chewing on bones. It is thought that this helps them get some much-needed calcium, which helps them support those huge necks.
  20. Giraffes have a bird that is their best friend. The Oxpecker bird rests on the necks of giraffes and feeds on the ticks and annoying insects that live there.
  21. The scientific name for giraffes is Giraffa Camelopardalis because it was once thought that they were the combination of a camel and leopard! They aren’t, but it’s easy to see why this used to be a common assumption.

Giraffes remain one of the favorite sights to see at zoos and safaris. Despite the changes in the way that they are bred and cared for, their population levels remain a risk. Only the hard work of conservationists and zoos all around the world is preventing these glorious creatures from being gone forever.