Giraffes are mammals. No other land animal is larger in height from head to feet. They are best known for their extraordinarily long necks. The giraffe has seven cervical vertebrae in its neck, like most other mammals. However, the cervical vertebrae of the giraffe are extraordinarily long. Another special feature of giraffes is their two horns, which are covered with fur. Some species have bumps between the eyes.
In Africa, giraffes live in savannas, steppes, and bush landscapes. There are nine subspecies that can be identified by their fur. Each subspecies lives in a specific area.
The males are also called bulls, they grow up to six meters high and weigh up to 1900 kilograms. Female giraffes are called cows. They can grow four and a half meters tall and weigh up to 1180 kilograms. Their shoulders are between two and three and a half meters high.
How do giraffes live?
Giraffes are herbivores. Every day they eat about 30 kilograms of food, spending up to 20 hours a day eating and looking for food. The long neck of the giraffe gives it a great advantage over other herbivores: it allows them to graze in places on trees that no other animal can reach. They use their blue tongues to pluck the leaves. It is up to 50 centimeters long.
Giraffes can go without water for weeks because they get enough liquid from their leaves. If they do drink water, they have to spread their front legs wide so that they can reach the water with their heads.
Female giraffes live in groups, but they don’t always stay together. Such a herd of giraffes sometimes has as many as 32 animals. The young giraffe bulls form their own groups. As adults, they are solitary animals. fight each other when they meet. They then stand side by side and bang their heads against each other’s long necks.
How do giraffes reproduce?
Giraffe mothers almost always carry only one baby in their tummy at a time. Pregnancy lasts longer than in humans: a giraffe calf stays in its mother’s womb for 15 months. Female giraffes have their cubs standing up. The cub doesn’t mind falling to the ground from that high up.
At birth, a young animal already weighs 50 kilograms. It can stand up after an hour and is 1.80 meters tall, the size of a grown man. This is how it reaches the mother’s teats so that it can suckle milk there. It can run for a short time. This is very important so that it can follow the mother and run away from predators.
The cub stays with its mother for about a year and a half. It becomes sexually mature at around four years of age and is fully grown at six years of age. A giraffe lives to be around 25 years old in the wild. In captivity, it can also be 35 years.
Are giraffes endangered?
Giraffes are rarely attacked by predators because of their large size. If necessary, they kick their enemies with their front hooves. This is more difficult for the cubs when they are attacked by lions, leopards, hyenas, and wild dogs. Although the mother protects them, only a quarter to a half of the young animals grows up.
The giraffe’s biggest enemy is the man. Even the Romans and Greeks hunted giraffes. So did the locals. The long strings of giraffes were popular for bowstrings and as strings for musical instruments. However, this hunt did not result in a serious threat. In general, giraffes are quite dangerous for humans if they feel threatened.
But humans are taking away more and more of the giraffes’ habitats. Today they are extinct north of the Sahara. And the rest of the giraffe species are endangered. In West Africa, they are even threatened with extinction. Most giraffes are still found in the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania on the east coast of Africa. To remember the giraffes, every June 21st is World Giraffe Day.