There’s just something about these long-necked animals that capture our imagination. When kids learn about nature, one of their favorite subjects is giraffes. These unusual-looking creatures have long necks and eat from the tops of trees.
The beautiful fur of the giraffe is also something that draws us to this animal. Although giraffes are known to fight each other from time to time, they generally have a peaceful demeanor.
Here are 27 more interesting facts about Giraffes you might not know.
27 Interesting Facts about Giraffes
1. Giraffes Are as Tall as a 2-Story House
Perhaps one of the best-known giraffe facts is that giraffes are the tallest land mammals on Earth. While the Blue Whale is probably the largest animal to ever live on Earth, the giraffe can rightly claim to be the tallest mammal living on land.
Giraffes can grow up to 19 feet, or nearly six meters, in height! While we generally think of the giraffe’s neck as the part that makes it tall, giraffes also have the longest legs of any land mammal. Their legs alone are roughly six feet tall, which is taller than most people.
2. Giraffes Necks Grew Over Time … Over Millions Of Years
You can probably guess one of the best-known giraffe fun facts: giraffes have one of the longest necks of any animal. Their necks can grow to be seven feet long!
We might think that the giraffe has more bones in its neck than other animals. One of the surprising facts about giraffes is that the giraffe doesn’t actually have more bones in its neck. The bones in the giraffe’s neck are simply longer than most animals, and this is where the incredible length comes from. Each vertebra in a giraffe’s neck can be nearly a foot long.
The giraffe’s neck is an example of evolution. Evolution is the change that occurs to animals over time, from generation to generation. When a new generation of animals is born, one of the animals may possess a trait that gives it an advantage over other animals. This advantage is typically linked to the environment in which the animal lives.
The ancient ancestor of the giraffe was an animal with a neck more like a horse or a zebra. At some point, one of these animals was born with a long neck, and this gave it an advantage in reaching the leaves of trees to eat. From generation to generation this trait continued to provide the animal an advantage and a new set of species evolved from the ancient ancestor of the giraffe.
Not all descendants of the ancient ancestor of the giraffe evolved in the same way. Some species evolved differently because their traits gave them an advantage in other ways. There are members of the giraffe family, or Giraffidae, that evolved to have larger bodies than modern giraffes. Many of the species of the Giraffidae family died out over time. The special traits, or evolutionary adaptations, of the giraffe, have allowed it to survive while other species became extinct.
One endangered species that still remains from the Giraffidae family is the okapi. While okapi might look a little like zebras, they are in fact members of the giraffe family. They don’t have the same long neck as the giraffe, though they show some traits, such as long legs. The okapi and the giraffe show us how evolution can shape the same animal in different ways over time.
3. Giraffe’s Tongues Can Be Up to 20 Inches Long
The giraffe’s long neck is the result of evolution. This trait gave the giraffe and its ancestors an advantage, as they could easily reach leaves high up in trees. Other parts of the giraffe’s body also give it an advantage in reaching leaves to eat. Evolution gives us another one of our giraffe facts: giraffes have extremely long tongues. A giraffe’s tongue can be up to 20 inches long.
Giraffes use their tongues to reach in and out of branches to pluck the most succulent buds from trees. The giraffe’s tongue is an amazing feat of nature. Like a hand or an arm, the giraffe’s tongue can work in and around branches, then tightly grab a bunch of leaves and pull them into the giraffe’s mouth. The giraffe’s tongue is also very tough, which allows the giraffe to safely graze on the leaves of plants with thorns.
4. Giraffes Can Run Over 30 Miles Per Hour
Looking at a giraffe, it doesn’t exactly look like a racehorse. We know from our amazing facts that giraffes have extremely long legs. Perhaps it’s these large pole-like legs that make us think the giraffe couldn’t possibly run fast.
One of the surprising giraffe facts is that giraffes can run over 30 miles (or 50 kilometers) per hour! This is an amazing speed for an animal that weighs nearly two tons and can be up to 19 feet tall.
5. A Giraffe Can Shatter a Lion’s Skull with 1 Kick
Although giraffes are some of the most impressive animals on Earth, there aren’t too many fearsome facts about Giraffes. Giraffes are mostly peaceful animals and they are not carnivores. They are herbivores that eat a diet of mostly acacia leaves, and they do not prey on other animals.
Because of their large size, and their ability to run fast, there are few animals that hunt giraffes. Lions are the only animals on Earth that are widely known to hunt giraffes. Lions, sometimes working together, will attempt to knock the giraffe off of its long legs and then attack it on the ground where it is more vulnerable.
Giraffes defend themselves by kicking towards the lion. The giraffe’s long legs may look like poles, but they are actually very powerful. A giraffe can shatter a lion’s skull and break other bones in the lion’s body with a single kick. You’d have to be one hungry lion to want to hunt a giraffe!
Younger giraffes, which are called calves, are more likely to be preyed upon than older giraffes. Another of our surprising giraffe facts is that crocodiles will sometimes attack giraffes, especially calves when they bend down to take a drink of water. Big cats that are smaller than lions, such as leopards, will also attack younger giraffes as they are smaller than the adults and their vital areas are closer to the ground.
6. Giraffes Are Killed for Their Meat, Fur, and Sometimes Sport
One of the saddest giraffe facts is that humans are the only animals on Earth, other than lions, that often hunt giraffes. Sadly, the poaching of giraffes continues. Giraffes are killed for their meat, their fur, and sometimes even for sport.
People are currently working to raise awareness of giraffe poaching, and this is one of the more positive facts. The giraffe is currently listed on the Endangered Species list. However, it is classified as Least Concern and not listed as Endangered, like its relative the okapi.
This is positive news because we still have a chance to save giraffes for future generations. These beautiful animals evolved to fulfill a special role in nature. By learning facts about giraffes and teaching others about this magnificent animal, we can help end poaching and make sure that lions are the only animals that hunt giraffes.
7. Ancient Egyptians, Romans, and Africans Knew About Giraffes
The Ancient Egyptians, Romans, and Africans all knew about giraffes and there are various references to giraffes in cultural artifacts. Giraffes fascinated people then, much as they continue to do so today. There are many paintings and engravings of giraffes. In Egypt, the giraffe had its own hieroglyph.
After Roman times, giraffes were not often kept outside of Africa. In modern times, giraffes are still featured in many books and works of art and are frequently featured as characters in movies.
8. A Giraffe’s Heart Can Weigh Close to 25 Pounds
Due to the giraffe’s incredible height, the animal has an equally incredible circulatory system to manage the blood flow in its body. To pump blood up to their neck, giraffes have massive hearts that can weigh over 10 kilograms – that’s close to 25 pounds!
One of the stress-relieving giraffe facts is that the blood pressure in giraffes is nearly twice that of humans. Next time your doctor tells you that you have high blood pressure, tell him that it’s not that bad compared to a giraffe!
The neck of a giraffe presents a problem for the animal when it lowers its head to take a drink. All the blood flowing to its brain from a six-foot-long neck would cause the animal to die. The giraffe has adapted to this by having a special valve in its artery that stops blood from flowing to the brain when it lowers its head.
9. Giraffe’s ‘Hang Out’ in Temporary Social Groups
While a giraffe group isn’t as social or cohesive as an ant colony, one of the more entertaining giraffe facts is that they like to hang out together. Hang out is really a good term because the groups that giraffes gather in are often temporary. There don’t appear to be any strong social bonds or hierarchy.
However, there are dominant males, and they are more likely to mate with females. While giraffes are generally peaceful, one of the most surprising facts is that giraffes will fight with each other. Male giraffes will fight each other for dominance. They fight by swinging their long necks from side to side and hitting each other with their neck and head.
The violence between giraffes is typically not deadly, and one giraffe usually submits, signaling that the fight is over. The dominant male wins the fight and chooses a female to mate with by strange behavior. File this one under gross giraffe facts: the male giraffe tastes the urine of the female giraffe to determine whether or not the female is fertile and ready for mating.
Giraffe groups are typically made up of mother giraffes and their young. Sometimes adolescent giraffes will also be a part of these groups. Adult male giraffes tend to be more solitary, often wandering long distances by themselves. Perhaps some male giraffes just need their alone time!
10. Giraffes Can Run Within a Few Hours of Birth
The baby giraffe stays in its mother’s womb for over one year! It’s another of our amazing facts about giraffes that giraffes can run within a few hours of being born. Perhaps because they are more easily preyed on, giraffes have evolved this ability to give them a better chance of surviving the time period after birth.
Because giraffes are mammals, baby giraffes, or calves, drink their mother’s milk after they are born. Mother giraffes do most of the raising of the baby giraffes. They also defend the calves from predators. This may explain why giraffe mothers gather in groups; it may be a defense mechanism.
11. Their necks can’t reach the ground
Those long beautiful necks can’t reach the watering hole. That’s why giraffes stand with awkwardly bent legs when they are at the waterhole.
12. Giraffes don’t have upper front teeth
Giraffes have the same amount of teeth as humans, 32. However, all 32 of a giraffe’s teeth lie on the bottom of its mouth.
13. They have some of the biggest feet in the animal kingdom
A giraffe’s hoof is about the size of a dinner plate or has a diameter of 30 centimetres.
14. Giraffes have horns
Giraffes are born with horns but they actually lie flat on their heads and aren’t attached to their skulls to avoid injury during birth. Later in life, they fuse with the skull and become major weapons for giraffes.
15. The word giraffe comes from the Ancient Greeks.
The ancient Greeks thought that giraffes looked like camels wearing a leopard coat so their name was Giraffa Camelopardalis.
16. Giraffes sleep standing up.
They rarely lie down to sleep as it would make them vulnerable to predators.
17. Giraffes sleep for only 30 minutes a day.
18. A giraffe pregnancy lasts 15 months
And that’s not even the longest pregnancy in an African animal. Elephants in Africa are pregnant for 22 months.
19. Giraffes give birth standing up
If they lay down the baby giraffe would be crushed.
20. Whilst giraffes are herbivores they will suck on animal bones.
21. Baby giraffes are often hunted by hyenas.
22. The reticulated Giraffe is the most common in the world.
23. The Masai Giraffe is the biggest subspecies of Giraffe.
24. A giraffe’s spots are like human fingerprints
All the colored spots of the giraffe have different patterns.
25. Giraffes make a range of sounds and noises.
They are often emitted at a low frequency that humans can’t hear.
26. A group of giraffes is called a tower.
27. Giraffes eat over 35 kilos of food per day.
Evolution has given giraffes many advantages over their ancestors and provides us with many of our interesting giraffe facts. Their long necks give giraffes the ability to eat leaves high up in the trees. Their amazing tongue has also evolved to help them eat leaves. Many of the adaptations of the giraffe are a result of its height. Giraffes have an amazing circulatory system to help keep the blood moving efficiently through their tall bodies.
Learning animal facts can help us all get excited about nature. All throughout time, giraffes have fascinated us. By learning about the way that giraffes evolved, we can learn more about the process of evolution. We should end poaching and protect the habitat of giraffes to make sure kids of all ages will be fascinated by giraffe facts for many generations.