Giraffe: The case of Long Necks

Courtesy Denver Zoo

The Giraffe is the tallest animal on land. An adult male can stand up to 17 ft. tall. The medieval Europeans believed the giraffe was a cross between a leopard and a camel, which is reflected in its scientific name, Giraffa camelopardalis.  There are four distinct species : Reticulated Giraffe (Giraffa reticulata), Southern Giraffe (Giraffa giraffa), Northern Giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis),  and Masai Giraffe (Giraffa tippelskirchi). They are shown clockwise below.

Courtesy: Giraffe Conservation Foundation

Animals get large to escape predators and Giraffe is one animal to do that. The tongue is prehensile, and typically 18 inches long. If you have a 15 inch laptop screen, add three more inches and think about it! It  helps them feed of the thorny branches of the acacia trees.

Giraffe Tongue

The skin is taut to the body and helps bring de-oxygenated blood back to the heart by increasing pressure.

Although, the neck is very long, they have the same number of neck vertebrae as us seven in all. To compensate for blood flow, there are a series of  little valves at the base of the brain that regulate blood supply to the head when the giraffe is bending. Otherwise the animal would suffer significant brain damage.



There are about 100,000 in the wild but they are left in highly fragmented pockets. The IUCN lists them as vulnerable as a lot habitat threat exists.

The male giraffe is both taller and heavier than the female. Both sexes have skin-covered knobs, called ossicones, on the top of their heads. Female ossicones are smaller and have a small tuft of fur on top, while male ossicones are bald on the top. These knobs are used to protect the head when males fight, which involves swinging their necks at each other in a show of strength called “necking.”


Giraffes sleep less than two hours a day in the wild. In general, they sleep with their feet tucked under them and their head resting on their hindquarters, but they can also sleep for short periods of time standing up.

These creatures have had a good run for large animals. Let us hope that the habitat fracture due to sustained drought that is going on in Africa, will be halted so that they can yet live for a time.

About mammal 73 Articles
I blog about mammals and all the interesting and fun-filled facts about them will be welcome additions to this blog.

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