are the tallest animals in the world. Males top out at 19-feet
tall. Although their necks alone can be eight-feet long and weigh
about 600 pounds, giraffes have the same number of vertebrae in
their necks as humans (seven).
support body weights of as much as 4,250 pounds, giraffes may
eat up to 75 pounds of leaves per day, preferably from the branches
of acacia trees. These treesí long thorns ward off most animals,
but giraffes skillfully use their 18- to 20-inch prehensile tongues
to reach around the thorns. Many zoologists believe the blue-black
color protects the giraffesí tongues from sunburn. Because acacia
leaves are so moist, giraffes can go months in their native African
savannas and grasslands without drinking water. If water is readily
available, however, they can drink 10 gallons a day.
typically venture to watering holes in groups of 12 to 15, taking
turns to watch for predators and alerting each other with moans.
Keen senses of sight and smell combine with speeds of up to 32
mph to keep them out of harmís way. When cornered, they can defend
themselves with deadly kicks. For even more protection, their
spots serve as camouflage. These defenses enable them to live
about 25 years in the wild.
male and female giraffes have hair-covered horns called ossicones.
Males use them to playfully fight with one another. As males age,
calcium deposits form on their skulls, making it appear that they
have as many as five horns.
© 2006 Terry White, Drawing © 2006 Bill Harrah.