The Giaraffe

 

 

Ancient cultures in Africa revered the giraffe, as some modern cultures do today, and commonly depicted it in prehistoric rock and cave paintings. Unknown outside of Africa, early written records described the giraffe as "magnificent in appearance, bizarre in form, unique in gait, colossal in height and inoffensive in character."

The Giraffe moves about the semi-arid regions in groups. Its height allows it to keep in contact with other giraffes over large distances as well as spotting predators from afar. It is not uncommon to see other animals following a giraffe using it as an early predator warning system.

The Giraffe is vulnerable when drinking. It is a quiet species although the males fight viciously for dominance over the group.

The neck is so long the giraffe must spread its front legs apart so its head can reach the ground to drink. It has unusually elastic blood vessels with a series of valves that help offset the sudden buildup of blood (and to prevent fainting) when the head is raised, lowered or swung quickly.

The giraffe's high shoulders and sloping back give the impression that its front legs are much longer than the hind legs, but they are in fact only slightly longer. The giraffe (as well as its short-necked relative the okapi from Central African forests) has a distinctive walking gait, moving both legs on one side forward at the same time. At a gallop, however, the gait changes, and the giraffe simultaneously swings the hind legs ahead of and outside the front legs, reaching speeds of 35 miles an hour. Its heavy head moves forward with each powerful stride, then swings back to stay balanced. Giraffes have "horns" not true horns but knobs covered with skin and hair above the eyes to protect the head from blows

Family: Giraffidae

Size: 18 feet; weight: Up to 3000 pounds.

Diet: Herbivorous browsers. When protected, giraffes can flourish in areas where food is abundant year round. Although they drink water when it's available, they can survive where it is scarce. Giraffe occasionally eat grass and fruits of various trees and shrubs, but their principal food source is the acacia tree.

Habitat: Dry savannah woodland. Giraffes are found in arid and dry-savanna zones south of the Sahara, wherever trees occur.

Reproduction: Single young born any time of the year. Gestation 15 months.

Lifespan: 28 years

Predators: Humans

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