Imagine an Africa safari without glimpsing a giraffe above the treetops? It just wouldn’t be wild Africa without these gentle giants loping around the savannah.
One fun fact about giraffes is that they are the tallest animal in the world. But you already knew that, right?
The great giraffe is a fascinating megafauna that holds an animal encyclopedia full of fun facts, some of which are hilariously unbelievable!
So let’s jump right in with the most fun fact about giraffes.
1. Hard times at the watering hole
A giraffe 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, giraffe 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 giraffe, they don’t need to drink every day like us humans. Giraffe only need to drink once every few days to survive the savannah.
2. Loooong neck with only seven vertebrae
Giraffe is the last standing land mammal to evolve a super long neck since its ancestors during the Jurassic period. A male giraffe’s neck can reach almost three metres in length. Coming in at second place is the ostrich at one metre. No competition there!
What’s even more fascinating about their elongated neck is that giraffe 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.
Fun giraffe fact 3. A factor fifty tongue!
At a whopping 50 cm long a giraffe’s tongue follows suit with its other lengthy features. Its deep purple colour 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. Bottom pegs
Did you know that giraffe lack upper front teeth? Giraffes have the same amount of teeth as humans. However, all 32 teeth lay on the bottom of its mouth and are mostly molars positioned right at the back.
Giraffe 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 how evolution intended! 🙂
Obvious giraffe fact 5. These gentle giants are almost six metres tall
These gentle giants are the tallest mammals to walk the Earth. Their legs are taller than most humans at two metres and even a newborn giraffe is taller than most people.
Giraffe stand at around 4-5 metres high, with the tallest giraffes ever recorded being up to 5.9 m. That’s taller than three men standing on each other’s shoulders.
6. 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!
Although the hooves of a giraffe may be overlooked due to other humongous body parts, they are also pretty mind blowing. With a diameter of 30 cm, their tremendous hooves are used to distribute their weight, preventing them from sinking into sand or marshy areas.
Giraffe fact 7. 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 birth. Did you know that these horns are called ossicones?
Later in life the ossicones will fuse with the skull and become formidable weapons, particularly in adult males.
Fun Fact 8. Can you kiss a giraffe? Maybe you can!
You will probably never get the chance to reach a giraffe’s head unless you visit Nairobi Giraffe Centre. At Nairobi Giraffe Centre 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. It’s not a dog! You have been warned!
9. Greek gods of the animal kingdom
The common giraffe’s scientific name comes from the ancient Greeks. They believed the giraffe looked like a camel wearing a leopard coat and their scientific name was born, a Giraffa Camelopardalis.
Giraffa camelopardalis! Is there any more appropriate scientific name in the animal kingdom?
10. Giraffes sleep when stood up
Giraffes in the wild rarely lay down to sleep, as this would make them vulnerable to predators.
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 and sleep no more than 30 minutes a day.
Fun fact 11. The giraffe dating scene
Isn’t it fascinating how all animals have their own special technique to lure a mate? The male giraffe doesn’t mess around when it comes to mating season.
The male giraffe gets stuck right in there and, using their 50 cm long tongues, grab 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. Yes 15 months! Amazingly, that’s not even the longest pregnancy on the African savanna. African elephants are pregnant for 22 months and rhinos for 16 months.
After a long 15 month pregnancy, the giraffe will stand up to give birth to their baby. If they were to lay down, the baby giraffe would be crushed during birth. As a result, the poor baby giraffe enters the circle of life with a mini skydive as it falls about 2 metres to the ground.
This article about baby giraffe has 22 facts about Africa’s cutest newborn, including why they need the dramatic head-first drop.
13. Giraffe are exceptional pollinators
One of our favourite fun facts about giraffes 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.
Giraffe 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.
Giraffe fun fact 14. When hunger strikes
Giraffes are known as browsers and enjoy exclusive VIP access to the freshest leaves from the tallest treetops.
Despite their impressive size, the giraffe has a plant-based diet and enjoys munching on acacia, mimosa and wild apricot trees.
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.
Giraffe have access to parts of the trees that provide the most essential nutrients. This gives giraffe an advantage over other herbivores and means they do not compete for food with any other animal.
15. Giraffe 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 and that’s why you may not be surprised to know that osteophagy has been observed by the giraffe. Giraffe 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 do have predators
A baby giraffe is extremely vulnerable to hyenas. The vicious hyena will hunt in a pack because they can’t manage a solo kill due to the giraffe’s size.
The only animal on the savannah to take a chance on hunting an adult giraffe is a lion. When a giraffe is drinking at the watering hole they’re at their most vulnerable because their necks are at lower ground, making 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 absurd and if giraffe gave one kick from its powerful leg, it could easily end a lion’s life.
17. Giraffe are endangered 🙁
It’s not a fun fact about giraffes, but this is the most important giraffe fact you need to be aware of. Wild giraffe are sadly declining, mainly due to habitat loss caused by increasing agriculture. People still poach them for their tail hair, pelts and meat.
Giraffe are now extinct in eight African countries where they previously roamed, including Guinea and Mali. They are only found in sub-Saharan Africa and 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.