20 Fascinating Facts About Giraffes

Did you know giraffes are in danger of becoming extinct, primarily due to poaching and the degradation of their habitat? With only about 90,000 giraffes remaining in Africa, this year they were listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red List of Threatened Species for the first time.

Here are some interesting things you may not know about the tallest mammals on Earth.

1. Baby giraffes can stand within just half an hour, and run alongside their families after only 10 hours.

2. Until they’re about 5 months old, young giraffes play with each other while their moms are nearby, foraging for food.

3. Giraffes sleep less than most mammals, from only 10 minutes to two hours per day. They usually sleep standing up.

4. Giraffes are non-territorial, and join and leave herds at will. The herds may be all male or all female, mixed gender, or females with their calves. Some giraffes that apparently prefer to be alone have also been spotted in the wild.

5. They can run for long distances at speeds as fast as about 37 miles per hour.

6. You’ll rarely see giraffes fighting with each other. They prefer to just amicably hang out with their herd. What good role models for humans!

7. “Necking” in the giraffe world doesn’t apply to making out, but to males aggressively swinging their heads at each other, aiming their horns at their opponent. This is pretty much the only “fighting” they engage in, but it can get intense, as you can see in this video.

8. One kick from a giraffe’s powerful leg can kill a lion.

9. Every giraffe has a unique spot pattern. Those brown spots help camouflage them in the dappled light created by the trees they feed on.

10. Believe it or not, giraffes, just like humans, have only seven vertebrae in their necks. The difference is that each of a giraffe’s vertebra can be up to 10 inches long.

11. Their necks may be long, but they’re too short for giraffes to reach water on the ground. So they must awkwardly spread their front legs or kneel to drink. Fortunately, they only need water every few days, since it’s provided in all the plants they eat.

12. Speaking of which, giraffes eat 75 pounds of food (mostly leaves) every day.

giraffe drinking water

Photo credit: Charu Juneja

13. Giraffes have tongues that would make KISS’s Gene Simmons jealous: They can be up to 20 inches long. The length makes it easier to forage from thorny trees like acacias. Their tongues are also dark in color, which protects them from damage due to frequent sun exposure.

14. Giraffes are generally silent, using infrasonic sound to communicate with each other. When they sense danger, they may grunt or snort. Mother giraffes whistle to call their calves.

15. As a way of flirting, male giraffes may cough very loudly.

male and female giraffes courting

Photo credit: Hein waschefort

16. Everything you always wanted to know about giraffe sex but were afraid to ask: Their courtship ritual starts with a male giraffe sniffing a female’s urine. If she is in estrus, the male will rub his head near her rump and rest it on her back. Next, he licks her tail and raises one of his front legs. If the female is into him, she’ll walk in a circle around him and then assume the mating position. About 15 months later, she may give birth to their calf.

17. Because of their appearance, giraffes used to be known as “cameleopards.” Their scientific name, Giraffa Camelopardalis, translates to “camel marked like a leopard.”

18. Julius Caesar brought the first giraffe to Europe from Egypt in 48 B.C. Unfortunately, “he fed the giraffe to the lions in the Coliseum in front of a baying Roman public, offering up his pet prize as a sign of his wealth and magnanimity,” according to TIME.

19. Giraffes used to be killed only for their tails, which were used in good luck charms, fly swatters and as thread for sewing.

20. Giraffes only live for 10 to 15 years in the wild, and from 20 to 27 years in zoos.

To find out about the efforts being made to help save these magnificent creatures, visit the Giraffe Conservation Foundation’s website.

Photo credit: Ronald van Weeren

160 comments

Sarah H
Sarah Hill2 years ago

thanks

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Marie W
Marie W2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Nang Hai C
Nang Hai C2 years ago

thanks again.

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Tin Ling L
Tin Ling L2 years ago

thanks you

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Marija M
Marija M2 years ago

tks for sharing

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Melania Padilla
Melania Padilla2 years ago

Animals and nature are just gorgeous, best on the planet. Sharing!

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Naomi Dreyer
Naomi Dreyer2 years ago

Interesting and nice photos

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Cindy M. D
Cindy M. D2 years ago

Very interesting article. I love these beautiful animals and knew some of the things listed. Really enjoyed learning more about them. Thank you for sharing.

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Siyus C
Siyus Copetallus2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Siyus C
Siyus Copetallus2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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