Safari Series: Magnificent in appearance, bizarre in form, unique in gait …

Supposedly, some of the earliest writings about the Giraffe are from the eighteenth century, when biologists described it as “magnificent in appearance, bizarre in form, unique in gait, colossal in height, and inoffensive in character.” I think they pretty much nailed it. I’ve already made my feelings about giraffes well-known, so I won’t say any more than that. Instead, a selection of random giraffe facts for your (hopefully) enjoyment:

Giraffes are the tallest animal on Earth. They are usually around six feet tall at birth, and grow as rapidly as an inch per day until they reach a full height of 14 – 17 feet. The tallest giraffes may grow up to 20 feet.

An adult Giraffe’s tail is usually around eight feet long.

An adult Giraffe’s tongue is usually around 18 inches long.

Despite the length of the Giraffe’s neck, it has only seven vertebrae — the same number as humans and most other land mammals.

Adult giraffes have no predators because of their size, but lions will occasionally go after baby giraffes.

A giraffe has to bend or splay its legs to drink water, because otherwise it may faint from the rush of blood to its head when it lifts it back up.

Giraffes spend up to 20 hours a day eating (the main component of their diet is leaves of thorny Acacia trees) and only about 30 minutes a day sleeping.

Giraffes have a walking gait that is unlike most animals — they swing both right legs forward, and then both left legs. When running, their gait changes, and the swing both hind legs outside of and in front of the front legs. They can run up to 35 mph.

There are at least six and possibly up to ten subspecies of giraffes (I could probably find the exact answer with a little bit more research, but I figure you can live with a little uncertainty on this topic). The subspecies can be distinguished from each other by their markings, as you can see in this image:

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Serengeti is home to the Masai Giraffe, and I’m very happy to report that we saw tons of giraffes. We got to see a lot of them really close-up, which I always love, but one of the great things about seeing giraffes is that they’re so big that you can see and appreciate them even from far away, almost as part of the landscape.

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P.S. This is officially the END of “Daniel in Africa: Safari Series.” I hope you’ve enjoyed it! There will be a quiz.

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