30 Fascinating Facts About Giraffes


Giraffes are one of the most iconic African animals. These gentle giants are the tallest living land mammals on Earth and have captivated people for centuries with their unique appearance and behaviors. Here are 30 fascinating facts about these amazing creatures:

30 Fascinating Facts About Giraffes

1. There are four giraffe species

For a long time, only one giraffe species was recognized – the nine-subspecies Giraffa camelopardalis. However, recent research using DNA analysis has revealed that there are actually four distinct giraffe species:

  • Northern giraffe (G. camelopardalis)
  • Southern giraffe (G. giraffa)
  • Reticulated giraffe (G. reticulata)
  • Masai giraffe (G. tippelskirchi)

These four species live in different regions of Africa and have some differences in their coat patterns and ossicone shapes. However, they share the distinctive long-necked giraffe body shape.

2. No two giraffes have the same coat pattern

Just like human fingerprints, no two individual giraffes have exactly the same coat pattern. Their spotted coats are unique to each animal.[2] The patterns may also differ between subspecies – Masai giraffes tend to have darker, more irregular spotting compared to the large blotches of other subspecies.

3. Giraffes are the tallest land mammals

Fully grown male giraffes can reach heights over 18 feet (5.5 meters), making them the tallest living land mammals. Even newborn calves are taller than most humans at 6 feet (1.8 meters).[3] Their long legs and necks evolved to help them reach food high up in trees.

4. Baby giraffes can stand within an hour of birth

When a giraffe calf is born, it drops approximately 6 feet (2 meters) to the ground. However, their legs are capable of supporting their weight soon after birth. Baby giraffes can stand up and walk around within just one hour of being born!

5. Giraffes have blue tongues

A giraffe’s long prehensile tongue is a blue-purplish color. Giraffes use their 45cm long tongues to grab leaves and buds from branches. [5] The blue color may help protect their tongue from sunburn.

6. Their long necks have seven vertebrae

Most mammals have only seven neck vertebrae, and this is true for giraffes as well. However, each of the giraffe’s vertebrae is extremely elongated, which is how they ended up with such long necks.

7. Male giraffes swing their necks to fight

Male giraffes sometimes fight by swinging their heads and necks at each other. This is called “necking”. They don’t often hurt each other seriously during these necking contests.[6] Afterwards, one male will give up and walk away.

8. Giraffes have thick legs with skin like compression socks

A giraffe’s legs are thick and muscular to help pump blood back up from its feet. Their lower leg skin is tight and thick, almost like compression stockings. This helps prevent blood pooling in their feet when standing.

9. Giraffes have huge hearts

A giraffe’s heart weighs up to 25 pounds (11 kilograms) and is the largest heart of any land mammal. Their hearts need to be powerful enough to pump blood throughout their long necks and legs.

10. Newborn calves fall 6 feet to the ground when born

Female giraffes give birth standing up. This means newborn calves start their lives with a 6 foot (2 meter) drop to the ground! Fortunately, they have impact-absorbing hooves and are not injured by the fall.

11. Giraffes only sleep for minutes at a time

Giraffes have one of the shortest sleep requirements of any mammal. They only need 10 minutes to 2 hours of sleep per 24-hour period! Their unusual sleeping habits let them stay alert to predators.

12. Giraffes run up to 35 miles per hour

Despite their gangly legs, giraffes can run at speeds over 35 miles per hour (56 km/h) in short bursts. At a steady trot they can maintain speeds of 10 miles per hour (16 km/h).

13. Their 21-inch tongues are prehensile

A giraffe’s 21-inch (45 cm) tongue is long enough to reach around branches and grab leaves. It is also prehensile, meaning it can grasp objects. The tongue’s purple color may protect it from sunburn while reaching for leaves.

14. Giraffes live between 15-20 years in the wild


In the wild, giraffes have life spans of 15-20 years on average. Their major threats are habitat loss, poaching, and attacks from predators like lions. In captivity, giraffes may live over 35 years.

15. Both male and female giraffes have ossicones

Ossicones are the horn-like protrusions on a giraffe’s head. Both male and female giraffes have them, though males’ tend to be thicker. The ossicones are made of cartilage and are covered in skin.

16. Giraffes don’t need much water

Giraffes get most of their moisture needs from the vegetation they eat, so they only need to drink water once every several days. Even when drinking, they only gulp a few times. This helps them avoid predators while in a vulnerable drinking position.

17. Their spots may have a thermoregulatory function

It is thought the distinctive spots on a giraffe may serve a thermoregulatory function. The spots may generate small vortexes in the air next to the giraffe’s skin, increasing heat transfer. This would help cooling in hot environments.

18. Giraffes have long prehensile tongues

Giraffes have 45 cm long tongues that are prehensile – meaning they can grasp objects. Their long tongues help them grab leaves high up in acacia trees. The tongues are tough enough to withstand sharp thorns.

19. They spend most of their lives standing up

Giraffes spend most of their lives standing up. They even sleep and give birth in a standing position. Their specialized circulatory systems and tough skin allow them to tolerate standing for long periods.

20. Giraffes have excellent eyesight

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With their elevated vantage point, giraffes can spot predators from far away. Their eyesight is so good that they can perceive color at night – an ability only shared by a few other mammals.

21. Their habitat range has declined significantly

Giraffe habitat has declined by over 50% in the past 30 years. Their range used to cover much of Africa, but now only scattered populations remain. Habitat loss is one of the major threats facing giraffe populations.

22. Calves form nursery groups for safety

Young giraffes band together in nursery groups while their mothers are away foraging. Being in a group provides safety in numbers against predators like lions and hyenas.

23. Giraffes have kick power to rival horses

Giraffes can deliver dangerous kicks with their long legs and heavy hooves. Their kick force measures over 2,000 pounds per square inch (psi), which rivals the powerful kick of a horse.

24. NASA studied giraffe blood vessels for space suits

NASA has studied the blood vessels in giraffe’s legs to improve astronaut’s space suits. Giraffes have special valves and thick vessel walls to prevent blood from pooling in their legs. This inspired designs to help astronauts.

25. Giraffes are listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN

Due to significant population declines, the IUCN Red List categorizes giraffes as Vulnerable to extinction. There are estimated to be less than 100,000 individuals remaining in the wild.

26. Giraffes have thick rubbery lips

Giraffes have thick rubbery lips
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A giraffe’s lips are specially adapted for browsing on thorny acacia trees. Their lips are thick and rubbery, which helps protect their mouths from sharp thorns.

27. They have excellent hearing at low frequencies

Giraffes can hear infrasonic sounds, which are below the range of human hearing. It’s believed they may use this ability to listen for distant thunderstorms as cues to find water sources.

28. Giraffes have never been domesticated

Despite their docile nature, giraffes have never been truly domesticated. However, ancient Egyptians kept giraffes as pets to parade through the streets.

29. Their long legs can sprint up to 35 miles per hour

Giraffes are capable of sprinting at over 35 miles per hour (56 km/h) for short bursts. Their specialized cardiovascular systems and long legs allow these fast running speeds.

30. Giraffe populations are rapidly declining

Giraffe populations have declined by 30% over the past three decades. There are now estimated to be less than 100,000 individuals left in Africa. Conservation efforts are needed to prevent extinction.

FAQ about giraffes

A: Giraffes are fascinating animals with many unique characteristics. Here are some interesting giraffe facts:

A: A giraffe is the tallest land animal, standing at around 25 feet.

A: Giraffes have long necks to reach leaves and twigs high up in the trees, which make up their main diet.

A: A giraffe’s heart can weigh up to 25 pounds.

A: Giraffes only need to drink once every few days.

A: The horns on a giraffe are called ossicones.

A: Giraffes can sleep for 5 to 30 minutes a day, with occasional bouts of 30 minutes of sleep.

A: A newborn giraffe can stand up within an hour of being born.

A: There are several interesting giraffe species, including the reticulated giraffe, Masai giraffe, and Rothschild’s giraffe.

A: Female giraffes usually have one or two young at a time.

A: Giraffes use their long tongues to reach leaves and twigs, their primary source of food.

Giraffes are truly astounding creatures. Their unique adaptations like extreme height, specialized tongues, and powerful cardiovascular systems make them fascinating to study. Sadly, these iconic giants are facing severe threats from poaching and habitat loss. Increased conservation efforts are necessary to protect the remaining giraffe populations across Africa. What other amazing giraffe facts do you know? Let us know!

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