The Giraffe & My "Family"
These long legs allow giraffes to run as fast as 35 miles an hour over short distances and cruise comfortably at 10 miles an hour over longer distances.
Giraffes are the world's tallest mammals, thanks to their towering legs and long necks. A giraffe's legs alone are taller than many humans—about 6 feet.
Giraffes are so big that they really don't need to hide from predators. There is safety in numbers! It’s hard to pick out one giraffe from another when they form a tight group.
Typically, these fascinating animals roam the open grasslands in small groups of about half a dozen.
When a giraffe baby, called a calf, is born, it comes into the world front feet first, followed by the head, neck, and shoulders.
The calf can stand up and walk after about an hour, and within a week, it starts to sample vegetation. Sometimes the mother leaves the calf alone for most of the day. The youngster sits quietly until she returns.
When a calf gets older, the mother leaves her youngster together with other calves in a "nursery." One of the moms stays to babysit while the others go out to eat and socialize.
Height and Size
Size: 14 to 19 ft. Weight: 1,750 to 2,800 lbs.
Giraffes are the tallest land animals. A giraffe could look into a second-story window without even having to stand on its tiptoes!
A giraffe's 6-foot (1.8-meter) neck weighs about 600 pounds (272 kilograms).
Giraffes use their height to good advantage and browse on leaves and buds in treetops that few other animals can reach (acacias are a favorite).
Giraffes have beautiful spotted coats. While no two individuals have exactly the same pattern, giraffes from the same area appear similar.
A giraffe's heart weighs about 25 pounds—it has to be that big to pump blood all the way to its brain
Both male and female giraffes have two distinct, hair-covered horns called ossicones. Male giraffes use their horns to spar, throwing their neck against each other. As a male matures, calcium deposits begin to form on his skull to protect it when he head-butts with other males. These calcifications can be quite pronounced, giving the strange appearance of a three- to five-horned giraffe.
HABITAT AND DIET
It takes a lot of leaves to fuel such a large animal. Giraffes may eat up to 75 pounds (34 kilograms) of food per day.
Their favorite leaves are from acacia trees. Acacia leaves contain a lot of water, so giraffes can go a long time without drinking.
These trees have long thorns that keep most animals from eating them. But those thorns don't stop the giraffes! They simply use their 18-inch (46-centimeter) tongue and prehensile lips to reach around the thorns.
Giraffes are ruminants and have a stomach with four compartments that digests the leaves they eat.