Did you know that a group of giraffes is called a tower? Or that their tongues are so long they can lick their own ears? Giraffes are definitely one of the most interesting animals on Earth, and this article will show you why! Here, we’ll explore so many incredible facts about these lanky creatures.
You’ll learn everything from what they eat to how fast they can run. So continue reading to educate yourself on these majestic creatures!
1. Giraffes are the tallest land animals on Earth
With an average height of 5 meters, giraffes are just slightly shorter than a two-storied building, making them the tallest land animals on Earth!
2. Giraffes aren’t just tall; they’re quite heavy as well!
For an animal to be as tall as the giraffes, they have to have a huge body mass to support themselves as well. Giraffes aren’t lagging behind in that area, either.
With an average weight of 3,000 pounds in males and 1,500 pounds in females, they’re placed third on the list of the heaviest land mammals on Earth, after elephants and rhinoceroses.
3. There are four living species of giraffes in the world
While the family of giraffes was quite diverse once upon a time, today, only four species remain in the world (with some of them having their own subspecies).
They’re the Northern Giraffes, Southern Giraffes, Masai Giraffes, and Reticulated Giraffes.
4. The Masai Giraffes are the largest of all giraffe species
Also referred to as the Kilimanjaro Giraffe, the Masai Giraffes (Giraffa tippelskirchi) are the largest of all living giraffe species today.
These giraffes are five and a half meters tall and weigh about 1,500 kilograms. They’re found in Kenya and Tanzania and also happen to be the national animal of the latter.
5. The smallest giraffes are a subspecies of Northern Giraffes
The Northern Giraffes have three subspecies: Kordofan, Nubian, and West African Giraffes. Of all three, the Kordofan Giraffes (Giraffa camelopardalis antiquorum) are the smallest, both among the subspecies as well as all the other giraffe species.
Kordofan Giraffes are critically endangered and have a height ranging between 3.8-4.7 meters. They’re found in the Central African Republic, southern parts of Chad, and northern Cameroon.
6. Giraffes have a close relative: the Okapi
The family of the giraffes (Giraffidae) was originally quite diverse, having three subfamilies and multiple species. Most of them have gone extinct over time, with giraffes and okapis being the only two surviving animals in it. While we’re exploring giraffes, let’s learn a little about the latter as well.
Also referred to as Congolese and Zebra Giraffe, the Okapis are an endangered giraffid species. They have an overall dark coat (ranging from reddish to chocolate brown in color) and zebra-like white horizontal stripes at the back of their legs.
Okapis are endemic to Africa, just like the giraffes, but unlike savannahs, they inhabit the dense rainforests.
7. Giraffes’ necks make up most of their height
Yes, giraffes are mighty tall animals. But have you ever wondered if they’d still be so tall if it weren’t for their exceptionally long necks? We doubt that they’d be.
Of their total average height, which is between 16-19 feet, their necks account for 6-8 feet. Imagine how awesome it would be if our necks could boost our height like that!
8. Despite the difference in size, giraffes’ necks have as many vertebrae as ours!
Do you know how many vertebrae are there in our neck? Seven. And coincidentally enough, your tall friends have the same number of vertebrae in their necks!
However, while each of our vertebrae would hardly be a couple of centimeters long, theirs can be up to 10 inches. Thus, the difference in height.
9. The hooves of giraffes are as large as a dinner plate!
Like all other ruminants, the giraffes also possess hooves on their feet. However, theirs are the largest you’d ever have seen. With a diameter of 30 centimeters, they’re about as large as a dinner plate!
10. Giraffes’ legs are surprisingly long as well
While the necks of giraffes grab all the attention for height, they’re the only long parts of their bodies. These ruminants have significantly long legs as well. Their legs are just 1 foot shy of their necks (6 feet) and help them run as fast as 34 miles per hour!
11. Giraffes are the largest ruminants in the world
Ruminants are hoofed, herbivore mammals that possess a specialized stomach for fermenting the food they eat before digestion. Goats, cows, sheep, and bison are some common examples of it.
Giraffes also belong to the same group, with their massive size making them the largest of all ruminants.
12. Giraffes have long, black tongues
Just as most parts of a giraffe’s body are exceptionally long, so is its tongue. The tongue of these ruminants stretches as long as 20 inches, and that’s not even the weirdest part. Their tongues are also black, which is only unique to them, of all ruminants!
Experts suggest that the darkened tongue could be a protection against the sun’s UV rays.
13. Giraffes’ tongues are prehensile
As if being long and black wasn’t enough, the tongues of giraffes are also prehensile!
If you’re unfamiliar with what prehensile means, it’s the ability to grasp objects. This means that giraffes can grasp things using their tongues. Wouldn’t it be cool if we could do that, too?
14. Giraffes are found only on one continent: Africa
Of all seven continents of the world, giraffes are only found in the one that’s the hottest of all: Africa.
If you’re wondering what’s so special about Africa that all giraffes live there, here’s the answer: Savannahs. Savannahs are large, grassy plains with very few trees located in tropical regions.
And while savannahs are found in Asia, Australia, and South America as well, none of them can beat Africa’s savannahs in size; about half the continent is covered in savannahs!
But what’s the connection between giraffes and savannahs? Well, they’re the ideal habitats for these ruminants, which is why giraffes are naturally found only in Africa.
15. The Romans believed giraffes to be a camel-leopard
Can you imagine what a combination of a feline and an ungulate would look like? Well, you don’t need to because the Romans already did it a long time ago.
To their civilization, giraffes appeared like a strange combination of camels and leopards. Their faces resembled the camels, while the patterns across their bodies looked just like that of the leopards.
In fact, that’s how their scientific names have been formed: giraffa camelopardalis.
16. Giraffes have no teeth on their upper jaw!
Just like humans, giraffes also possess 32 teeth in their mouths. But here’s the twist: all of their teeth are placed on their lower jaw, while their upper jaw remains toothless!
So, what is the role of this jaw? Well, it’s formed like a hard palate, which makes sense as its job is only to break the leaves off the trees. The chewing takes place inside the mouth, using all the teeth located at the back of the lower jaw.
17. Giraffes’ horns aren’t really horns
If you’ve ever seen giraffes, you must’ve noticed two horns atop their heads. But did you know that these horns aren’t really horns? They’re conical cartilage structures covered with skin and hair and are called ossicones.
What do giraffes use their ossicones for? They’re occasionally used as weapons among the males fighting each other.
18. Giraffes sleep very little
For someone who eats as much as the giraffes do, and they eat a lot, you’d certainly expect them to take long naps. However, on the contrary, they sleep very little, much like the other ruminants. They’re rarely found sleeping for longer than an hour or two.
19. Giraffes drink very little water
Water is essential for the survival of all living beings, including giraffes. But how often do they drink water? Once a day, or at times even in a couple of days.
But how would that fulfill their water needs? Well, most of their water requirements are met by their plant-based diet. This works in favor of the giraffes because drinking water isn’t an easy task for them. Read more about it in the next fact!
20. Drinking water is a group activity among the giraffes
Do you know how animals drink water? From the water bodies. But since all water bodies are located on the ground, drinking from them is a tricky task for the giraffes. They’re so tall that even if they bend their necks the furthest, their legs would still come in the way.
If you’ve ever seen a giraffe drinking water or even a picture of it, you’d see how weirdly its legs are twisted in the attempt. Furthermore, these ruminants are also most vulnerable to the predators in this position, which is why giraffes always form groups for drinking water.
In their arrangement, when one giraffe bends to drink, all the others are standing guard.
21. Giraffes can even sleep while standing!
While giraffes generally sleep lying down, some of the older giraffes have also been spotted sleeping while standing!
22. Mama giraffes stand while giving birth!
As long as we’re talking about strange things giraffes can do while standing, how could we miss this one?
Although sleeping while standing is an occasional practice among the giraffes, when it comes to giving birth, they’re always standing. Their calves, when born, are dropped down from the womb of their mothers. Luckily, they’re strong enough to withstand the fall.
23. Newborn giraffe cubs can stand and walk surprisingly early
When human babies are born, they’re absolutely helpless and need the constant supervision of adults for the first few years of their lives. Well, the giraffe calves aren’t half as needy.
Within the first 60 minutes of being dropped out of their mama’s womb, these calves are already able to stand and walk on their own, which is about 10,000 times faster than our babies! This makes sense since being able to stand is essential for them to drink their mama’s milk.
Moreover, they also learn to run by the end of their first day in the world. Now that’s something to brag about!
24. The collective noun for giraffes is quite height-appropriate
Imagine seeing a group of giraffes standing together in one place with their heads huddled together. Doesn’t the picture in your head resembles a tower of sorts? Because that’s what a group of giraffes is called: a tower!
25. Giraffe meat is consumed in some parts of Africa
Despite their massive size, giraffes are such gentle, loving creatures that it’s almost impossible to believe humans could feed on them, but it does happen.
In some parts of Africa, giraffe meat is a rare delicacy. Those who have eaten it claim that it has a unique sweet flavor, which is why it is placed among the finest game foods.
In countries like Kenya, Namibia, Zimbabwe, and South Africa, you can even find giraffe delicacies in exclusive restaurants.
26. June 21st is celebrated as World Giraffe Day
The Giraffe Conservation Federation took the initiative of celebrating World Giraffe Day in 2014.
They believed that the most befitting way of celebrating the tallest animals in the world would be on the longest day of the year: June 21st.
27. White Giraffes exist, too!
All giraffes generally have tan-colored skin, but did you know that some giraffes are white, too?
Occurring extremely rarely, the white giraffes are a product of leucism. But what is leucism? It is a condition of reduced pigmentation caused by a genetic mutation that prevents color pigments from being deposited on the skin and results in partial or overall pale coloration.
The bottom line
With this, we’ve reached the end of our article. Our ride through all the facts mentioned above was nothing short of exhilarating. Giraffes are some of the most amazing and interesting animals in the world. They’re tall, they’re majestic, and best of all, they have ridiculously long tongues.
This piece was a lot of fun to put together, and it was loads of work. We hope you and your kids enjoy it. We had a lot of fun writing these down, and if you could please share this on social media if you liked it, we would really appreciate it!
Have a great day!