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Nature

Head in the clouds

Giraffe facts for kids and adults

Giraffe on road
Photo by H Bieser from Pixabay

The tallest giraffe was almost 5.9 m or 19 odd ft tall but are generally around 5.5 m tall. Each giraffe has a unique pattern which also gets darker as the animal ages. The male is called a bull, the female a caw and the baby is a calf.

Similar to its relative, the okapi, our giraffe also has two ossicones and eats mostly leaves. The big difference in eating habits (our giraffe eating mostly acacia leaves) relate to the environment, with the giraffe being a Savannah based creature where its long neck gives it an obvious advantage. The long tongue well suited to curling around and plucking leaves from trees. The tongue is typically 45 cm or 18 inches long.

giraffe tongue
photo by RJ McSorby from pixabay

The giraffe is the tallest animal and the largest ruminant with four stomachs, as is the case with cattle. The giraffe is normally pretty good at looking after itself and very capable of inflicting serious damage to a predator that doesn’t dodge the it’s solid hooves.

So what about that neck? well its too short to enable the giraffe to drink water without spreading its front legs but has some adaptations to regulate the rate of blood flow to the brain. When the animal bends down the blood rushes to the brain without much interference but when it raises its head suddenly, the blood vessels constrict which stops the blood rushing from the brain and thereby ensuring the animal does not faint.

In addition to this the blood pressure in the lower legs is regulated by tight thick skin in order to compensate for the massive weight and fluid above them.

As one would imagine, all this blood flow would need a pretty good heart which weighs in the region of 11 kg or 25 lb and beats at around 150 beats a minute. The length of the heart is around 60 cm or 2 ft long.

baby giraffe
Photo by : Ben Kerckx on Pixabay.

The giraffe only needs to drink water once every few days, normally less than three. This is due to the efficient system that it obtains most of its moisture from the leaves that it eats.

Giraffe normally live to around 38 years and do not normally face predators due to their size, eyesight and powerful kicks. however, prides of lions are capable of making a kill on the smaller animals suck as calves and also younger adults. The mothers defense is to stand over her calf and kick when the calf is under attack. Despite this brave stand many calves are killed when only a few months old.

Giraffes spend most of their lives standing which includes sleeping and even giving birth. The calf enters the world with a 1.5 m drop and is able to run within 30 minutes. As far as sleeping goes, they typically do power naps of around 5 minutes at a time and sleep up to about 4.5 hours in a day.

Photo by Christels from Pixabay.

There is a most interesting book called Zarafa by Michael Allin which tracks a giraffes journey from Africa all the way to Paris. It was a gift from Muhammad Ali, the Ottoman Viceroy of Egypt to King Charles X and the animal became a sensation as it progressed. She survived in France for about eighteen years but it was quite a story to get her there.

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