When you think about giraffes, you immediately think of one word: huge! These large, but graceful creatures are famous for munching away on leaves in the treetops, just watching the world go by.
If you want to catch a glimpse of a wild one in person, you’ll have to travel all the way to the savannahs of sub-Saharan Africa. Until you get that chance, let’s go through some of the most interesting facts about giraffes, so that you’re ready for your encounter one day in the future.
1. Um, they’re tall
It might seem obvious, but giraffes are actually the tallest animals that live on land! Forget the elephant or the bear, the lanky giraffe is the king of animal kingdom when it comes to height. If you stood next to a grown-up one, you would be staring up 5.5m, or over 18 feet! Can you imagine that? You might need to get some stilts ready for your future trip to Africa.
It’s important for these extraordinary animals to be so tall, though, because it lets them look out for hungry lions that would like to eat them for supper! With their super long legs, the giraffes can spot these predators early on and move away quickly before they can be caught.
2. They have a plant-based diet
If you’re a vegan, you are in good company with the giraffe, which is known as a herbivore. This is another reason that their height is so useful, as it allows them to access all of the leaves that are out of reach for many other animals. In fact, they also have super long tongues to match their long legs, which gives them a bit of extra reach… as if they weren’t tall enough!
You might not like it when your parents make you eat your vegetables, but giraffes really love their greens. Their favourite is the leaves of the acacia tree, though, so just be glad you don’t have to eat those at home!
3. They don’t often get thirsty
That’s right, while giraffes can scoff up to 45kg of food each day, they rarely stop for a little refreshment with a cool drink of water. You might be wondering why? Well, plants contain a lot of water inside them, so giraffes can fulfil their hydration needs through their food. Pretty cool, right?
In fact, while their necks are great for looking out for lions and grabbing a quick treetop snack, they’re actually not long enough to reach a lake or river easily. That’s why it’s useful that they can avoid stopping for a drink and instead get their water intake from the trees!
4. Giraffes have horns
You might not have noticed that giraffes have horns – their long necks are usually the centre of attention! Next time you see a picture of a giraffe, look at the top of their head and you’ll see them there.
Their horns are known as ossicones, actually, and both male and female giraffes have them. Male giraffes tend to use them to fight, which they do by ramming their head and necks into each other.
5. Giraffes CAN swim
You might think that the long legs and neck of the giraffe would make it a little hard to take a quick dip in the river. We wouldn’t blame you for believing that! In fact, for decades it was assumed that the giraffe was the only mammal that couldn’t swim.
In just the last ten years, however, scientists have shown that the giraffe can – in theory – float in the right amount of water. It wouldn’t be that fun for the giraffe, however, and so you’re unlikely to catch one at the side of the pool anytime soon.
6. Giraffes are unique like snowflakes
Remember when you looked at a snowflake under a magnifying glass to see its unique pattern? Well, the pattern on each giraffe is also one of a kind. You might think the spots all look the same, but in fact, each design is special and only found on that specific giraffe.
Most giraffes usually live for twenty-five years in the wild, so they have plenty of time to make their mark – and show their marks – in the sunny savannah!