Giraffes Tower over Africa’s Plains



These tall animals are identified by their long necks, equally long and spindly legs, and spotted coats. Most giraffes have a tan, white or yellow coats that are spotted with brown, square shapes.

Giraffes are the world’s tallest mammals, thanks to their towering legs and long necks. A giraffe’s legs alone are taller than many humans. These animals roam the open grasslands in small groups of about half a dozen.

Giraffes are the tallest living animals in the world, according to the Smithsonian National Zoological Park. Such a massive body, it makes sense that the giraffes’ organs and other body parts are equally huge.


Giraffes live in savannas throughout Africa. They like semi-arid, open woodlands that have scattered trees and bushes, making the savannas perfect for these animals.


Giraffes are herbivores, which means they eat only plants. Their long necks allow them to reach leaves, seeds, fruits, buds and branches high up in mimosa and acacia trees.


As in cattle, female giraffes are called cows, while the males are called bulls. After mating, the cow will have a gestation period of around 14 months. Baby giraffes are called calves. During birth, the calf will drop to the ground, since mother giraffes give birth standing up.


Conservation status

Fewer than 100,000 giraffes remain in the wild, down from an estimated 150,000 that roamed the savannas 30 years ago. And because the species don’t interbreed, population numbers for all African giraffes won’t accurately represent whether each group is doing well.

Giraffe populations are challenged because of poaching and shrinking habitat. The animals’ tails are made into good-luck bracelets, fly whisks and thread for stringing beads, according to the African Wildlife Foundation. As agricultural settlement expands, the giraffe’s main source of food, the acacia tree, is being cut down.

Facts About Giraffes

  1. Giraffes are the tallest mammals on Earth. Their legs alone are taller than many humans—about 6 feet.
  2. They can run as fast as 35 miles an hour over short distances, or cruise at 10 mph over longer distances.
  3. A giraffe’s neck is too short to reach the ground. As a result, it has to awkwardly spread its front legs or kneel to reach the ground for a drink of water.
  4. Giraffes only need to drink once every few days. Most of their water comes from all the plants they eat.
  5. Giraffes spend most of their lives standing up; they even sleep and give birth standing up.
  6. The giraffe calf can stand up and walk after about an hour and within a week, it starts to sample vegetation.
  7. Despite the females’ attempts to stand over their calves during attacks by lions, spotted hyenas, leopards and African wild dogs, many calves are killed in their first few months.
  8. A giraffe’s spots are much like human fingerprints. No two individual giraffes have exactly the same pattern.
  9. Both male and female giraffes have two distinct, hair-covered horns called ossicones. Male giraffes use their horns to sometimes fight with other males.
  10. Giraffes only need 5 to 30 minutes of sleep in a 24-hour period! They often achieve that in quick naps that may last only a minute or two at a time.
  11. While it was thought that giraffes did not make any sounds, this is now known to be untrue, as giraffes bellow, snort, hiss and make flute-like sounds, as well as low pitch noises beyond the range of human hearing.
  12. Female giraffes often return to where they were born to give birth. Once there, their calves receive a rough welcome into the world, falling over five feet to the ground.
  13. The giraffe’s scientific name, Giraffa camelopardalis, comes from the ancient Greeks’ belief that it looked like a camel wearing a leopard’s coat.
  14. Despite their characteristic long necks, giraffes actually have the same number of neck vertebrae as humans—just seven. Each individual vertebra is super-sized, measuring up to ten inches long.
  15. Unlike horses and most other quadrupeds, giraffes walk by moving both legs on the same side of their body together. So, the left front and the left hind legs step and then the right front and the right hind legs step.
  16. June 21, is the World Giraffe Day. Celebrate the fifth annual World Giraffe Day on June 21, 2018. World Giraffe Day is an initiative of the Giraffe Conservation Foundation.
  17. The first giraffe to make its way to Europe was brought there by Julius Caesar from Alexandria in 46 B.C. as part of a triumphant return to Rome after years of civil war.
  18. Some 1500 years later, Lorenzo de’ Medici was gifted a giraffe by the sultan of Egypt. Giraffes had not been seen in Italy since antiquity and it caused quite the sensation, wandering the streets of Florence and accepting treats offered out of second-story windows.



In the Giraffidae family, there are two genera: Giraffa and Okapia. The okapi is sometimes called the forest giraffe. The Giraffa genus has recently had a shake-up after a recent study recognized four species, not just one.

The new taxonomy of giraffes, according to the Giraffe Conservation Foundation, GCF, is:

Kingdom: Animalia
Subkingdom: Bilateria
Infrakingdom: Deuterostomia
Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Infraphylum: Gnathostomata
Superclass: Tetrapoda
Class: Mammalia
Subclass: Theria
Infraclass: Eutheria
Order: Artiodactyla
Family: Giraffidae

  • Giraffa giraffa (southern giraffe), with two subspecies: G. g. angolensis (Angolan giraffe) and G. g. giraffa (South African giraffe)
  • Giraffa camelopardalis (northern giraffe), with three subspecies: G. c. antiquorum (Kordofan giraffe), G. c. camelopardalis (Nubian giraffe) and G. c. peralta (West African giraffe)
  • Giraffa reticulate (reticulated giraffe)
  • Giraffa tippelskirchi (Masai giraffe)