image

World Giraffe Day: 8 things you never knew about this safari staple

Good grief they’re weird.

Giraffes are very, very odd animals.

Mostly neck and leg, with a shout out to their unsettlingly long tongues, they seem to have been built from a grab bag of leftover body bits, yielding an animal somehow both elegant and comedic.

A recent study published in Science Advances identified a catalogue of giraffe-specific gene mutations required to support their bizarre form and said “the suite of adaptations associated with the extreme stature of the giraffe has long interested biologists and physiologists”.

San Diego Love GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

 

To mark World Giraffe Day, here’s a few things you may not have known about this fascinating animal…

1. No two giraffes look alike

The blotchy, spotted pattern on a giraffe’s back and sides acts like a human fingerprint. Every individual is different, a boon for conservationists needing to identify different members of a herd.

2. Giraffes need barely any sleep

Though giraffes can run as fast as 35 miles per hour, theirs is not typically an active lifestyle, and they need fewer than 30 minutes sleep each day. Sometimes they get by on much less, resting their heads on their rumps for a quick nap while one or more herd members stands guard.

Giraffe drinking from watering hole

3. Giraffes have extremely high blood pressure

An adult giraffe’s blood pressure is roughly twice that of an adult human – but that’s only near their hearts. In their heads, after the blood has been funnelled up six feet of neck, it’s about the same as a human’s. A giraffe’s circulatory system is a sight to behold.

4. They can do everything standing up

Have you ever seen a giraffe sitting down with its legs crossed? Giraffes can sleep, feed, mate and give birth all while standing tall, as when upright they’re impervious to all but the most apex savannah predators.

Baby Standing GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

 

The only time giraffes have to lie down is during the first hour of life, as the calves work out how to balance on some of the animal kingdom’s spindliest-looking legs – and normally they stand within 30 minutes. In adulthood, those same limbs measure more than six feet in length, and can kick out hard enough to kill a lion.

5. NASA used giraffes to study space

No one has (yet) designed a giraffe-sized space shuttle, but the creatures have unwittingly contributed to the space race right here on Earth.

We’re not going to delve into the science (because we 100% don’t understand it), but a NASA physiologist realised in the 1980s that the problems faced by astronauts re-adjusting to Earth’s gravity were similar to those faced by giraffes after being born. Studies of giraffe blood vessels have since impacted spacesuit design.

Giraffe headshot

6. They have the same number of neck bones as humans

They’re just really, really big. Humans and giraffes have seven neck vertebrae, but in giraffes they’re over 10 inches long. Large animals all round, giraffes also have feet the size of dinner plates, eyes the size of golf balls, and a heart that measures two feet across.

Nat Geo Wild Giraffe GIF by Savage Kingdom - Find & Share on GIPHY

 

7. Males use their necks for fighting

Everyone knows giraffes use their height to forage from the branches of trees, but males also use their necks as weapons, whipping them round to clang into competing males like anatomical morning stars.

Charging into battle neck first is an obviously risky strategy, and there have been accounts of zig-zag-necked giraffes living out their lives at right angles after sustaining serious injuries.

Giraffes Fighting GIF by hero0fwar - Find & Share on GIPHY

 

8.Julius Caesar brought the first giraffe to Europe

The Roman dictator sailed a giraffe across the Med to keep as a pet in 46 BC. Described by onlookers as a “camelopard” – a hybrid of camel and leopard – we can only imagine what a sight it must have been lolloping through the streets of Ancient Rome.

The following two tabs change content below.

The Press Association

News from the Press Association - the national news agency for the UK and Ireland

Leave a Comment!

Not a member?

You need to be a member to interact with Silversurfers. Joining is free and simple to do. Click the button below to join today!

Click here if you have forgotten your password

Community Terms & Conditions

Content standards

These content standards apply to any and all material which you contribute to our site (contributions), and to any interactive services associated with it.

You must comply with the spirit of the following standards as well as the letter. The standards apply to each part of any contribution as well as to its whole.

Contributions must:

be accurate (where they state facts); be genuinely held (where they state opinions); and comply with applicable law in the UK and in any country from which they are posted.

Contributions must not:

contain any material which is defamatory of any person; or contain any material which is obscene, offensive, hateful or inflammatory; or promote sexually explicit material; or promote violence; promote discrimination based on race, sex, religion, nationality, disability, sexual orientation or age; or infringe any copyright, database right or trade mark of any other person; or be likely to deceive any person; or be made in breach of any legal duty owed to a third party, such as a contractual duty or a duty of confidence; or promote any illegal activity; or be threatening, abuse or invade another’s privacy, or cause annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety; or be likely to harass, upset, embarrass, alarm or annoy any other person; or be used to impersonate any person, or to misrepresent your identity or affiliation with any person; or give the impression that they emanate from us, if this is not the case; or advocate, promote or assist any unlawful act such as (by way of example only) copyright infringement or computer misuse.

Nurturing a safe environment

Our Silversurfers community is designed to foster friendships, based on trust, honesty, integrity and loyalty and is underpinned by these values.

We don't tolerate swearing, and reserve the right to remove any posts which we feel may offend others... let's keep it friendly!