Giraffe is one of the most amazing animals especially because of the long neck that makes it sometimes cumbersome and prone to a couple of problems. We will see them as we proceed and you will be able to understand more.
African ruminant mammal, Giraffa camelopardalis, live in open savannahs south of the Sahara and has only one family member, the Okapi. The giraffe is the tallest living mammal. Head/shoulder length is approximately 13′ for the male. Shoulder height is 8-12′, overall height 15-19′.
Weight is 1,100-2,800 lbs. The reticulated giraffes are handsomely patterned in golden browns, with a coarsely netted (reticulated) pattern mainly quadrangular in shape. Males and females have stiff manes along their necks. Both sexes have horn-like structures called ossicones on top of their heads between their ears. These ossicones are present at birth in the form of small knobs of cartilage covered with skin and hair which becomes bony nodules with age.
They have seven vertebrae in neck, the same as man and most other mammals despite the long neck. Only that the vertebrae are much bigger. The tail measures up to one yard with a terminal tuft of stiff, black hair.
They have long tongues that measure 18-21 inches long. The inner part of the tongue is pink in color, and then changes to a purplish-black color for the last 6 inches that are commonly visible.
A quick look at the adaptations of the Giraffe
At the first glance while on your African safari holiday, you will see the long neck and the long legs. These makes the giraffe walk majestically. In addition to the long legs and neck, they have long, tough, prehensile tongue, and leathery mouth for food gathering. Their coloration is protective. They are tall with good eyesight for watchfulness. Giraffes have high blood pressure (240/160) for pumping blood to the brain. Herds are small and loosely constructed of 5-15 individuals, consisting of one bull with females and young. Other bulls are solitary or in pairs.
They usually sleep standing up. Going for a month without water is also possible as an adaptation to long drought periods in their native areas. A browsing ruminant that eats regularly throughout the day, the giraffe prefers young leaves and shoots at tops of acacia trees which sometimes ends up shaping the regularly visited trees. They prefer to drink regularly, but can go without water for several days. Giraffes can run up to 35 mph. Predators are leopards (prey on young), lions, and man. Giraffes kick with their hooves and slam with their heads. A giraffe usually sleeps for only 1-12 minutes.
Giraffes are non-seasonal breeders, usually producing one calf after a gestation period of 14-15 months. Newborn giraffe calves begin their lives by falling up to about 6 feet to the ground, and weight 87-107 lbs. They become sexually mature between 3 and 4 years of age and have a life span of about 25 years and up to 30 in captivity. Full body size is not reached until five years of age.
It is interesting to note that…
The carotid artery that carries blood from the heart to the head is thick, muscular and elastic, ballooning when the giraffe stoops to absorb increase in pressure. When the giraffe raises its head, a series of check valves in the inch-wide jugular vein prevents a sudden back flow from the head, emptying the brain. They are most vulnerable to predators when drinking or lying down.
They may see red-orange, yellow-green, purple, green and blue as colors. Their scientific name means “camel-leopard-like one who walks swiftly.” Their spot patterns are as individual as fingerprints. They are among the very few mammals that cannot swim at all. Giraffe’s have a variety of sounds but they are rarely heard. They may grunt of snort when alarmed, females may whistle to call their young, and calves can bleat.