Giraffes, the African artiodactyl mammals and the largest ruminants, are the world’s tallest mammals. Also known as gentle giants, they are large, beautiful, and mild-mannered animals with several unique characteristics.
The fascinating animal has a unique build, from head to hooves, along with two hairy horns, a bluish-purple tongue, a long neck, unique patterns, a long swishy tail, and skinny lean legs—which makes them so intriguing.
Did you know the giraffe was called a camelopard in ancient times? That’s because it looks like a camel with a long neck and has spotted patterns like a leopard. And such similarity gives giraffe a scientific name, Giraffa camelopardalis.
Want to know more such interesting facts about this tallest living terrestrial animal? Keep reading this post on giraffe facts for kids that can captivate your children.
Where Do They Live?
Giraffes are primarily the natives of the sub-Saharan areas of Africa, Chad, Niger, and Somalia. They prefer to live in hot, dry regions such as savannas, woodlands, and grasslands. These long-necked mammals are the most common sights in east Africa’s Amboseli National Park and Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park.
Giraffes usually live in non-territorial groups, with up to 20 in each group. They live in around 33 square miles in wet areas and 580 square miles in dry areas.
What Do They Eat and Drink?
Giraffes are voracious and enormous eaters. These herbivores have a varied diet and like to devour new shoots and leaves from the thorny acacia tree. They munch on selected low fiber and high energy trees. A fully grown large giraffe consumes around 145 pounds of grass, leaves, and flowers a day.
The giraffe’s tongue and an inside layer of the mouth have extra-tough tissues to protect from thorns. It has prehensile lips and a 21-inch tongue to grasp the leaves and pull them into the mouth. In case the foliage is not thorny, it combs the leaves from the stems by drawing with incisor and lower canine teeth.
Giraffes spend about 16 or more hours per day eating or traveling to other places searching for food. Their keen eyesight and height help them see a long distance to find food or spot a predator.
Despite their large size and build, they require significantly less water to survive. In the dry or hot season, they drink water once in three days. Hence, they are usually found in places far away from the sources of water. But when they start drinking, they drink a lot of water.
Giraffes sleep for around 20 minutes per day, with power naps that last only a few minutes. They do not lie down but stand and sleep. At least one giraffe stands on guard while others in the herd take a nap or rest. Instead of running, they sprint at 37mph, which helps them run away from the predators. They also have strong, large hooves that act as a form of defense.
Giraffe Life Cycle Facts For Kids
Being the tallest animal, a male giraffe exceeds 5.5m high and weighs up to 4255lb, whereas a female giraffe is 4.5m high and weighs up to 2600lb.
Though giraffes are not territorial, they live in groups called towers. An older male or bull leads the pack, and the female giraffe or cow breeds around four or five years. The gestation period is 15 months. The giraffe stands while giving birth, and when the calf is born, it falls from about 5ft to the ground. A single offspring or a calf weighs around 220lb and is about 6.5ft tall.
The calf starts to walk within an hour of its birth and runs within six hours. Until a week of its birth, the mother keeps the calf isolated and nurtures it. After that, the calf is slowly let in with the other calves of the same age in nursery herds.
These calves are more prone to predator attacks, and only half of the newborn offsprings survive. Calves start eating grass from the age of three weeks, but they also suckle their mothers till they are 18 to 22 months of age.
The giraffes reach maturity between three to six years, and they live for around 25 years in the wild and a little more when in captivity.
33 Facts About Giraffes For Kids
Listed below are some intriguing facts about giraffes that children would find fascinating.
- Giraffes have a long tail, which measures about 8ft long.
- The giraffe’s neck is about 5.9ft long and has seven vertebrae. These vertebrae have flexible joints, which allow the giraffe to stretch its neck.
- The giraffe’s tail is made of hair that is around ten times thicker than human hair.
- The giraffe’s coat is covered with distinctive spots except on the belly that acts as camouflage to save them from predators.
- Both male and female giraffes have small horns, also called ossicones. The female ossicones are smaller compared to male ossicones and are covered by hair.
- The giraffes keep on chewing on their food constantly and have four compartments in the stomach, and so they are known as ruminants. One compartment helps in digesting food.
- The long giraffe tongues are bluish-purple and are covered with bristles like hair. Its hair protects the tongue from the thorny acacia trees.
- The male giraffes fight with their necks and heads for the female giraffes. It is known as necking, in which they use their head as clubs and swing their neck wildly for fighting.
- They are tranquil animals and do not stick to only one sound to communicate. They make various sounds, such as grunting, mooing, and hissing.
- The closest known relative of the giraffe is the okapi, which looks similar.
- The giraffes are called even-toed ungulates as they have an even number of toes on each hoof.
- The giraffe legs have a unique character—the front legs are longer than the back legs that help them run fast for a brief spurt of time.
- Though mild-natured, giraffes can be aggressive when attacked, and a firm kick with their hoofs can injure a predator.
- One uncommon threat giraffe faces due to its height is lightning strikes.
- As of 2016, the International Union For Conservation Of Nature has reclassified the giraffe’s conservation status as vulnerable.
- There are nine classified giraffe subspecies, among which the Rothschild giraffe and west African giraffe are endangered.
- Giraffes have long eyelashes that protect their eyes and keeps out dust particles from getting into their eyes.
- Giraffes have thick-walled arteries in their neck, and the presence of extra valves helps to counteract the gravitational force whenever their head is up.
- When the giraffes lower their head to the ground, unique vessels present at the brain base help control their blood pressure.
- The giraffe’s gait is known as pace. It means that both the legs on one side move together in synchronization.
- A giraffe walks in two paces: amble (around ten mph) and gallop (approximately 35mph). While galloping, it first lifts off its hind legs, and almost together, its front legs come down. It can also be seen that no two hooves of the giraffe touch the ground at a time.
- They flex their necks while running to maintain their body balance.
- Considered one of the tallest subspecies of the giraffe, the Rothschild giraffe weighs 2500lb and is about 20ft tall.
- Giraffe has large lungs that can hold approximately 12gal of air at a time.
- Giraffes can drink around 10gal of water at a time.
- Giraffes have a large heart weighing about 22-24lbs that beats 170 times per minute.
- It has been speculated that giraffes have been living on the earth for more than 30 million years.
- Giraffes have a long tongue that is helpful not only for eating but also for cleaning their ears.
- All the giraffes have different spots on their bodies, which means no two giraffes have the same spots, which easily distinguishes them.
- Reticulated giraffes are the most common giraffes seen in zoos or captivity.
- Giraffes are subjected to illegal wildlife trade and the shrinking of their natural habitat.
- World Giraffe Day was established by the Giraffe Conservation Federation in 2014 and is observed on June 21st.
- According to IUCN, the main threats for the giraffe species include illegal hunting, habitat loss, habitat conversion, climate changes, and civil unrest.
Giraffes are beautiful, majestic, and among the oldest mammals known to live on the earth. Many of us are fascinated by the features and height of this gorgeous animal. Known to be strong and sensitive, they can sense the dangers from quite far. But owing to its uniqueness and despite the ability to sense danger at a distance, the giraffe has slowly become an endangered species, with seven of its subspecies being extinct already. According to a survey, in the past 20 years, there has been a steady decline in the giraffe population, and the mammal is now considered under the vulnerable category, which means it requires special attention and protection to prevent total extinction.
Share these unique giraffe facts with your children and educate them about the importance of beautiful animals and their role in nature. Help them understand and share the same among their friends. Most importantly, help them use this knowledge or promote the right actions that prevent losing the gentle giants to extinction.