There are many fun facts about giraffes. Some are more obvious than others, like the fact that they are the tallest animals in the world. But you already knew that, right?
The great giraffe is a fascinating megafauna that holds an animal encyclopedia full of intriguing facts, with several quirky traits that may surprise you.
Imagine an African safari without getting a glimpse of a giraffe above the treetops. It just wouldn’t be wild Africa without these gentle giants loping around the savannah.
So, let’s take a look at some fun giraffe facts before you meet on your next adventure.
21 Interesting Facts About Giraffes
Giraffes are elegant creatures: they amble around in the wild and bend down for a drink of water, admittedly with a little less grace.
Here are 21 facts about giraffes to impress your friends.
1. Can giraffes bend their necks?
A giraffe’s neck is actually too short to reach the ground. Yes, that’s right, this mighty mammal with the longest neck in the world can’t reach the watering hole for a slurp.
Even worse, giraffes can’t simply bend their necks forward. They must awkwardly splay their forelegs and bend their knees before they can lower their necks to the ground for a drink.
Luckily for giraffes, they don’t need to drink every day like us humans. Giraffes only need to drink once every few days to survive in the African savanna.
2. The giraffe has a long neck with only seven vertebrae
The giraffe is the last standing land mammal to evolve a super long neck since its ancestors of the Jurassic period.
A male giraffe’s neck can reach almost three meters in length. Coming in at second place is the common ostrich at one meter. No competition there!
What’s even more fascinating about their elongated necks is that giraffes still only have seven neck vertebrae. That’s the same number of bones as a human neck, except their bones are much, much longer than ours.
3. Fun facts about giraffe tongues
At a whopping 50 cm long, a giraffe’s tongue follows suit with its other lengthy features. Its deep purple color is due to dark melanin pigment.
As a result, there’s no need for the giraffe to get the factor 50 suncream out when licking around treetops for food all day long. The melanin provides the tongue with much-needed extra UV protection.
4. Giraffe fun fact – they have bottom pegs
Did you know that giraffes lack upper front teeth? They have the same amount of teeth as humans.
However, one of the most interesting things about giraffes is that all 32 teeth lie on the bottom of their mouth and are mostly molars positioned right at the back.
Giraffes use their bottom teeth to grab a branch and then comb the leaves off. So when you see a giraffe without upper front teeth, it’s not because of a giraffe brawl — that’s what evolution intended.
5. Cool giraffe facts: these gentle giants are almost six meters tall
Giraffes are the tallest mammals to walk the Earth. Their legs are taller than most humans, and even a newborn giraffe is taller than most people.
Giraffes stand at around 4-5 meters high, with the tallest giraffes ever recorded being up to 5.9 meters. That’s taller than three men standing on each other’s shoulders.
An interesting fact about giraffe groups is that it is known as a tower.
6. Giraffes have some of the biggest feet in the animal kingdom
Imagine going to your kitchen cupboard and pulling out a dinner plate. Well, that dinner plate is the size of a giraffe’s hoof, and what a heck of a hoof it is!
Many people aren’t aware of this fun fact about giraffe feet, as the other humongous body parts can overshadow it. But their hooves are also pretty mind-blowing.
With a diameter of 30 cm, their tremendous hooves help to distribute their weight, preventing them from sinking into sand or marshy areas.
7. Giraffes have ossicones
Both male and female giraffes have horns from birth. These actually lie flat on their heads and are not attached to the skull to avoid injury during delivery. Did you know that these horns are called ossicones?
Another amazing fact about giraffes’ horns is that they can use them to defend themselves. Later in life, the ossicones will fuse with the skull and become formidable weapons, particularly in adult males.
Male giraffes also use their necks to fight. They swing them into rivals, using their stubby horns to attack the underbelly. It’s a unique boxing match!
The cows’ horns turn inwards and are well tufted, whereas the bulls have larger and longer horns that get bald over time because of fights.
8. Weird facts about giraffes: can you kiss them?
You will probably never get the chance to reach a giraffe’s head unless you visit Nairobi Giraffe Centre. At this center, you can kiss a giraffe.
Yes, that’s right, you can have a full-on snog with an endangered Rothschild giraffe.
If you are lucky enough to meet a giraffe, you must know they don’t like their heads being touched at all. So stay clear of patting the head of a giraffe. They won’t enjoy it as much as dogs do.
9. Unique facts about giraffes: they are the Greek gods of the animal kingdom
The common giraffe’s scientific name comes from the ancient Greeks, who believed the giraffe looked like a camel wearing an African leopard coat. This is how their scientific name was born: Giraffa camelopardalis.
Giraffa camelopardalis! Is there any more appropriate scientific name in the animal kingdom?
The different giraffe subspecies are distinguishable from each other by their geographical range and unique skin patterns. These include:
- Masai giraffe
- Rothschild’s giraffe
- Nubian giraffe
- Reticulated giraffe
- Angolan giraffe
- South African giraffe
- Kordofan giraffe
- West African giraffe
10. Giraffes sleep when standing up
Instead, the impressive gangly giraffe can micro nap while standing, just like horses.
Giraffes curl their necks around to rest on their hindquarters for a quick five-minute catnap. They can survive with just 30 minutes of sleep a day.
11. There are a few unique and weird things about giraffes’ mating season
Isn’t it fascinating how all animals have their own special technique to lure a mate? Another weird giraffe fact is that the male doesn’t mess around when it comes to mating season.
The male giraffe gets stuck right in there and, using its 50 cm long tongue, grabs a taste of the female’s urine.
It’s graphic but true, and it’s not just for pleasure — it’s to determine whether or not they’re ovulating. If the female is showing some heat, the male giraffe will follow.
12. A giraffe is pregnant for 15 months
A female giraffe’s gestation period lasts for a whopping 15 months. They usually breed all year round, and only one calf is born at a time (twins are extremely rare).
After a long 15-month pregnancy, the giraffe will stand up to give birth to its baby.
The baby giraffe would get crushed during birth if they were to lie down. As a result, the poor baby giraffe enters the circle of life with a mini skydive as it falls about 2 meters to the ground.
The fall does not hurt the calf. It’s actually an ingenious means of giving the animal life. When hitting the ground, the giraffe gets a big shock.
This kick starts the lungs so the giraffe can take its first deep breath. Without the dramatic arrival, a giraffe wouldn’t be able to breathe.
After as little as an hour, the baby is up and running as if nothing has happened. Truly fascinating!
For more information, this article about baby giraffes has 22 facts about Africa’s cutest newborn.
13. Fun facts: giraffes are exceptional pollinators
One of our favorite giraffe fun facts is that they are beautiful pollinators to many plant species.
Their great height and super long treetop-feeding tongues allow them to transfer genetic material onto their mouths, from one flower of a tree to another. How fascinating is that! What a way to contribute to the African circle of life.
Giraffes are essential in this pollination because they have evolved to feed from branches that other animals cannot reach. So without the giraffe, some trees would struggle to spread.
14. Cool facts about giraffes: they have exclusive access to treetop leaves
Giraffes are browsers and enjoy exclusive VIP access to the freshest leaves from the tallest treetops.
Their elongated neck helps them reach the tallest trees. These trees tend to have deep roots that can suck up more water content. So a giraffe can quench its thirst through its choice of food.
Giraffes have access to parts of the trees that provide the most essential nutrients. This gives them an advantage over other herbivores and means they do not compete for food with other animals.
15. Giraffes suck on animal bones
Do you know this fun fact about giraffes? They lick and chew the bones of other animals.
It’s not easy being a vegetarian; that’s why you may not find it surprising that the giraffe has observed osteophagy.
Giraffes aren’t predators, so they don’t kill other animals, but their skeletons do require more calcium than they can get from plants.
16. Giraffes have predators
A baby giraffe is extremely vulnerable to predators, especially hyenas. The vicious animal will hunt in a pack as it can’t manage a solo kill due to the giraffe’s size.
The only animal on the savanna to take a chance on hunting an adult giraffe is a lion.
When a giraffe is drinking at the watering hole, it is most unsafe because its neck is at lower ground. This makes it difficult for a giraffe to spring back and flee if there is an attack.
However, a lion would have to be pretty brave to tackle a giraffe in the first place. The size of an adult giraffe compared to a lion is striking, and if a giraffe gave one kick from its powerful leg, it could easily end a lion’s life.
17. Fun fact about giraffes: they have unique patterns
Giraffes have patterned skin that looks slightly like burnt popcorn. They are a beauty to watch, and their coat is like no other.
Not all giraffes have the same spotty fur. In fact, there are huge differences, and patterns are the easiest way to tell the difference between giraffe subspecies.
18. Interesting facts about a giraffe heart
Do giraffes have two hearts? No. Contrary to popular belief, giraffes only have one heart.
It weighs over 10 kg and has to be incredibly strong to pump blood to all its extremities.
19. Giraffe fun facts: running speed
Giraffes have a loping gait. As they are so big, it doesn’t even look like they are running — until you discover that they’re moving much faster than the safari vehicle, and you can’t keep up!
20. Giraffe interesting facts: what sound do they make?
Have you ever heard what sounds giraffes make? Although a giraffe has a voice box, it can’t push enough air down its long neck to get it working.
That being said, it’s believed that giraffes make humming sounds that are beyond the reach of what the human ear can hear.
21. Giraffes are endangered
It’s not a fun fact about giraffes, but this is the most important giraffe fact you need to know.
The number of wild giraffes are sadly declining, mainly due to habitat loss caused by increasing agriculture. People still poach them for their tail hair, pelts, and meat.
Giraffes are now extinct in eight African countries where they previously roamed free, including Guinea and Mali. Today, you can only find them in sub-Saharan Africa. They are also a vulnerable species on the IUCN list.
There are many conservation groups leading and supporting the wild giraffe to ensure their survival. Hopefully, we will not see the great giraffe become extinct like its long-necked Jurassic ancestors.
Delight a Friend with One of These Funny Giraffe Facts
Now that we’ve discussed these graceful giants’ unique characteristics and behaviors, did you learn any new interesting and funny facts about giraffes?
There are many fascinating things to discover, from the awkward giraffe knees to their dinner plate feet. So next time you’re with friends, you can surprise them with interesting facts about giraffes that no one knows.
Or, plan an African safari trip, so you and your loved ones can see the majestic giraffes in their natural habitat. These elegant animals are undoubtedly a sight to behold.