Did you know the answer already? Yes, a group of giraffes is very aptly called a “tower”! The tallest of all land mammals, the unmistakable giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis) is a frequent visitor to The Hide in Hwange National Park, which is a privilege considering their species status have unfortunately recently been updated to Vulnerable worldwide These iconic creatures are not only incredibly beautiful, but really fascinating. Read the answers to some of the questions our guides get asked about giraffes:
1. How many bones are there in a giraffe’s neck?
There are actually only seven bones – which is the case with most mammals, including humans. However the neck vertebrae are much longer than the rest of the vertebrae, which makes it seem like there are many bones in a giraffe’s neck. Giraffe’s have flexible necks that are able to turn in a tight circle so they can reach their shoulders and flanks when grooming.
2. Can a giraffe lie down?
Yes they can, and they do in the same manner as antelope – it usually only takes a few seconds. Giraffe many spend some time at night lying down sleeping or resting, and occassionally during the heat of the day too. However they are more vulnerable when they are lying down so they usually only take short naps of a few minutes at a time. Even when lying down to rest or sleep, the neck is usually kept up or rested against the body.
3. Do they eat thorns?
Giraffes are herbivores, and although they do feed a lot on thorn trees, they actively avoid the thorns and are spat out if taken in by mistake! Giraffes have a very long tongue – up to 45cm that can curl and grip thorn branches, and strip it of leaves whilst avoiding the thorns. Giraffes also have thick, slimy salvia, a tough upper palate and rough inner lips and toungue to cope with the inevitable pricks during feeding. Their rubbery outer lips help them cope with eating acacias and other thorny delicacies.
4. How do they drink?
The plus side to being 5m tall is that you have the best vantage point in the savanna! The down side is literally getting down to drink! A giraffe has to splay their legs in order for their necks to reach ground-level water. A giraffe only needs to drink once every few days as they absorb a lot of water from the plants they eat.
5. How do they give birth?
Giraffes give birth standing up – quite a fall into a new world for the baby giraffe! a giraffe calf can stand up within half an hour, and will be running with a day too.
6. Why do giraffes interwine their necks?
One form of this is called necking – a soft rubbing between courting pairs of their necks. It is simply the male’s way of signaling intent to the female. The more aggressive interwining of necks is sparring, seen between adult males who are competing for dominance. These fights can go on for many hours, until one giraffe backs away and the winning male will have first dibs at females in oestrus.
7. How big are their hearts?
As you would imagine, a giraffe needs a pretty big heart to pump blood around such a tall body! A giraffe’s heart is 0.6m in size, and weighs up to 11kgs – the equivalent of 50 human hearts. A giraffe’s heart has very strong walls that allow it to withstand higher blood pressure so blood can be pumped against gravity to reach their neck and head.