Giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis)


Class: Mammalia
Order: Artiodactyla
Family:    Giraffidae
Size:    Height: 12 to 19 feet (3.6 to 5.8 m) 
Weight: 1,500 to 4250 pounds (551 to 1928 kg)
Diet: The leaves of trees, especially acacia, mimosa and combretum
Distribution: Africa
Young:  1 calf
Animal Predators:  Lion
IUCN Status: Lower Risk, Conservation Dependent
Terms: Young: Calf   Male: Bull
Lifespan: 5 to 25 years in the wild, up to 28 years in captivity



       Giraffes have excellent eyesight and because of their height, can see for miles.

       The scientific name means: giraffa (one who walks swiftly), camelopardalis (camel marked like a leopard).

       Giraffes can gallop at speeds up of to 37 miles (60 km) per hour.

       Ancient Egyptian art frequently featured giraffe designs.

       Giraffes are one of the few animals born with horns.


Giraffes are the tallest land mammals. They have a very long neck, a short, upstanding mane, and high shoulders sloping steeply to hindquarters. Like zebras, no two giraffe coat patterns are the same.  Most mammals have seven vertebrae in their necks, and giraffes are no different, except that theirs are elongated in order to hold up their long, muscular neck. 



Giraffe are social animals that live in herds of up to 40 to 50 animals, south of the Sahara desert. They do not migrate and they are not territorial. 


Feeding Habits

Giraffes feed on the leaves of trees using their strong lips and long tongue to rip leaves from their stems. They do not drink often, because they need to assume a precarious position in order to do soóspreading their front legs wide while bending over from the shoulder for a drink. This may be why they also do not graze on grass or low plants for food. Giraffes can go for several days at a time without taking a drink because they get an adequate amount of moisture from the leaves they eat.



During mating season, males compete with other males for females by butting their necks and heads against each other. A male shows his interest in a female by following her around, rubbing his head on her backside, licking her tail and resting his neck on her back. The female shows her interest by swishing her tail rapidly, circling and sniffing the male. The pregnancy lasts 15 months and the giraffe gives birth standing up, so the newborn drops about six feet (1.8 m) to the ground. Newborns are six feet (1.8 m) tall, 103 to 154 pounds (47 to 70 kg) and can stand up five to 20 minutes after birth but lie down for much of the day and night, resting while the mother guards her calf vigilantly from lion or hyena attacks. The horns of newborn giraffes lie flat against their skull, but pop up within the first week. Calves nurse for up to a year, and become able to totally feed themselves by 16 months. Young males stay in the herd for up to three years before leaving to join a group of males. Females stay with their motherís herd for life. 



When they sleep, giraffes often remain in a standing position, just like horses, in order to be ready to run at a momentís notice from predators; although, also like horses, they do occasionally lie down for short naps. When confronted by a lion, giraffes use their strong legs to kick at it, and are capable of kicking a lion to death. They never use their horns against predatorsómales only use their horns in competitions with other giraffes, and females never use theirs because they never spar or fight.  The herds are fluid, combining both males and females.They spend most of the day feeding and do not group together unless a lion is nearby. Mothers with calves keep closer together than most other giraffes and take turns watching each otherís young.



Giraffes are susceptible to loss of habitat, but are not in immediate danger. They are common throughout most of their range. 



Giraffe Wildlife Fact File, IM Pub, US