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What do Giraffes Eat

Rajib Singha
Whenever we think of the giraffe, we tend to think of its great height. As known to all, this mammal happens to be the tallest of all living species on land. It is also the largest ruminant. But, what do giraffes eat? The following passages have the answer to that.
Scientifically known as Giraffa camelopardalis, this African mammal is in close relation to the family of even-toed ungulates, whose other members are animals, such as deer and cattle.
Despite this, the giraffe is classified under a separate distinct family known as the Giraffidae, whose other member is the okapi; the closest relative of this mammal.
Savannas, grasslands, and open woodlands happen to be the habitat of this giant. Areas which are abundant with the growth of acacia (a kind of spiny tree or shrub), are commonly populated by this species.
The creature is known to gulp down large quantities of water when there is an abundant supply. This helps the animal to go without water for extended periods when water is scarce.
One interesting fact about the giraffe is related to its evolution. About 30 - 50 million years ago, Europe and Asia were home to a 9.8 ft tall mammal which seemed similar to an antelope.
This animal can be attributed as the ancestor to the today's 14 ft (4.3 m) to 17 ft (5.2 m) tall giant we know as the giraffe. According to records, the tallest male stood at a whooping height of 20 ft (6 m). On an average, the male may weigh 2600 lb (1200 kg) and the female 1800 lb (830 kg).

Diet of Giraffes

Despite their size, these giants require less food than typical grazing animals. All thanks to their digestive system and the kind of foliage they feed on. The foliage has more concentrated nutrition than the ones which form the diet of other mammals.
Trees of the genera Acacia, Commiphora and Terminalia are the primary food sources of these creatures, providing them with leaves, shoots, twigs, and barks. Apart from these, giraffes also eat grass and fruits. When seasons are wet, food sources are abundant, and this causes them to disperse widely.
However, this is not the case when seasons become dry and lack enough food. Then, the creatures can be seen congregating around evergreen trees and bushes.
As mentioned earlier, acacias happen to be the favorite food in their diet and these plants tend to be extremely thorny. Due to this reason, the giraffes' tongue and lips are of a hardy and tough make.
Although these animals can have 65 pounds (29 kg) of leaves and twigs everyday, they can survive even with 15 pounds (9.8 kg) of the same. The average length of a giraffe's tongue is 45 cm (18 in). No wonder, no bugs can stay for long crawling on the face of this mammal.
Another fact about the eating habits of male and female giraffes is that the former feed from the higher branches of the tree, while the latter forage among the lower ones. This social behavior ensures that there is no competition for food between the sexes.

Giraffe Fun Facts

  • The number of vertebrae in these animals are equal in number to most mammals. However, each of the giraffes' vertebra are extremely elongated.
  • The horns of a juvenile lie flat against the skull. Within the first week of life, the horns pop out conspicuously.
  • They are among the mammals who have the shortest sleep requirements. In a 24 hour period, these animals can do good with a sleep ranging from 10 minutes to 2 hours. Considering this, the average sleeping period comes up to 1.9 hours per day.
  • These animals are quiet and non-vocal by nature. However, at times, there are a variety of sounds which can be heard from them. These include loud coughing, whistling or bellowing, bleat, moo, mew, grunt, snort, and hiss. Wow, when they don't make any noise they just don't. But, when they do, it might be quite amazing to hear!
  • One funny fact about giraffes is about the sexual behavior of males. it has been studied that about 94% of courting behavior (leading up to mounting and climax) take place between two males.
  • The gestation period may last between 400 and 460 days. When babies are born, they are about 6 ft (1.8 m) tall. Also, within few hours after birth, the babies are capable of running around, and they can be hardly distinguished from a year old calf.
  • The giraffe's long neck has been a subject to a lot of debate and speculated findings. Some scientists are of the opinion that the neck was evolved to help the animal browse through vegetation. While, some claim that the long necks played a crucial role in their mating behavior.
As a final note, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) regards giraffes under the 'Least Concern' category with respect to their conservation status. But, there is a sub species known as the West African or Nigerian Giraffe, which has been listed as endangered.