Giraffes- All You Never Wanted to Know
So Much to Know About Giraffes
Giraffes are one of the world's most unique animals. I think when God made the animals, He had lots of creative ideas and threw all the remaining ones into the giraffe. In fact, famous artist Pablo Picaso was quoted with saying this about the animals: God is only another artist. He invented the giraffe, the elephant and cat. He has no real style; He just goes on trying other things.
I spent six weeks in East Africa in 2009 and learned so much about these beautiful creatures! I was thoroughly impressed and am still in awe of them!
There is one question about them I continually get asked. People seem to be curious about the same thing in regards to giraffes. Read to the end and you might find out the answer to the question about giraffes that plagues most people!
All of the photos and the video used on this hub were taken by me.
Let's Skip the Boring Stuff
I'm going to skip the boring stuff. We all know that giraffes are very tall and have purple tongues. They are mammals and live in Africa. Leaves are their favorite foods, and the graze the treetops for all their meals. Kids learn this stuff in elementary school.
All of my random factoids about giraffes are things I learned while in Nairobi, Kenya, at the giraffe park. All of these things held me in awe of these beautiful (and awkward) animals. All of the photos I am using are my own, and I took them while visiting the giraffes.
I hope you learn something! I sure did!
Giraffe Books for Kids
I absolutely love children's books, both fiction and nonfiction. Here are some of my favorite books for kids and adults all about these amazing animals!
Well as giraffes say, you don't get no leaves unless you stick your neck out.
Giraffes Are Great Kissers
Or, Giraffes Can Do Amazing Things With Their Tongues
Yes, giraffes can do amazing things with their tongues, including kissing (seen here with my sister.) But, it's not what you would guess.
Did you know that their saliva is antiseptic?
Yep! It kills germs! Just like neosporin or that bottle of stuff you carry around with you everywhere.
Don't ask me how they figured this out, but it's ture. That big, long, purple tongue is covered in saliva that can kill germs of all kinds. Cool, huh? Speaking of length, a giraffe's tongue is 18 inches long! (P.S. Their tongues are not purple; they are black. But they look purple. I'm not sure what the difference is.)
How About You? - Is giraffe spit something you'd use to clean wounds?
What is your favorite method of cleaning wounds or disinfecting?
Walk Like a Man
Most mammals walk with a certain pattern. Front right foot with back left foot, then alternate. Even people do the same thing with the swing of our arms. (Although, when my dog runs, he does both front feet, then both back feet. Maybe it's better for speed.)
Giraffes, on the other hand, do neither. They walk with both right legs, then both left legs! If they don't, they tip over! Who woulda' guessed?
It's kinda funny when you see it, especially since it's not something you ever see. No other mammal does it!
I wonder what they do to run, though... Maybe they don't run, for fear of being clotheslined.
See How They Walk!
Here is a short video I took of the giraffes walking. Just an example of what I'm trying to describe!
Think About It
When the guides at the giraffe park pointed this out, I had to sort of walk out the "regular" way to walk so I could understand the difference. Did you have to do this?
When I read this entry about how giraffes walk differently, I...
Baby, I'm Amazed
This one was so stinkin' cool!
When a female giraffe (called a cow) is pregnant, the gestation is 15 months. (First of all, can you imagine carrying something that huge for 15 months?!?!) But, if the mother giraffe knows it is dangerous, there isn't enough food or water, or this is her last baby and she wants to enjoy it as long as possible, she will hold it in for up to 3 more months! (Just kidding about the clingy part, but the danger is a good enough reason.)
Mother giraffes, like most mothers of any species, can sense danger in regards to their children. But these moms take it to the extreme. If it's time to have the baby, but it's not safe, she'll wait it out a few more months! Now that is love!
How Long Would You?
My cousin just had her sixth baby. (Yes, she is insane.) Her first five, she barely carried to 36 weeks, and one or two was earlier, I believe. But lucky number six took her to 40+ weeks! She must have some giraffe instinct!
How much longer would or did you carry your children if there was danger?
Baby, Baby, Baby, Oh
Baby giraffes hit the ground running, in the most literal sense.
First, they actually do hit the ground. They fall about 6 feet as they come out of their mother.
Within an hour, they have figured out how to use their long legs and can walk and start to nurse.
The babies, or calves, are all born with horns, which never go away. These little babies are about 150 pounds and are 6 feet tall.
In the Blink of an Eye
Giraffes are born without eyelids. From the time they hit the ground (literally) to the time they die, they never close their eyes. Mostly, because they can't. But maybe because they don't want to miss anything. This is a leading cause of death in giraffes in the wild, though. As the trees get cut down, the remaining ones are shorter and shorter. This is causing giraffes to go blind and die early due, essentially, to sunburn on their eyes. Giraffes also have no tear ducts.
In captivity, though, giraffes live longer. When giraffes are found (oftentimes injured or orphaned), they are rehabilitated and released into protected national parks. The park keepers and whatnot do a great job of making sure there are trees tall enough to protect the giraffes and their eyes. Therefore, giraffes in captivity live longer than those in the wild.
[Note: "Captivity" is a loose interpretation. The national parks where giraffes go are protected and safe, but there are no cages or anything like we normally think of.]
Despite having very long necks, giraffes cannot touch the ground with the heads. They have to sort of spread their legs apart and go down on their knees in order to lay down or drink water. They only drink for 10 or 15 minutes at a time. If they go longer than that, they will pass out from having their head below their heart for so long. But inside their neck is a series of one-way valves to prevent the blood from flowing backwards, helping them to not black out. Still, it's a long way down and a lot of blood to pump.
Fortunately, the favorite food of giraffes, the acacia leaf, is full of water, which provides them with most of the liquids in their diet. I'm a thirsty person, and I could not imagine not being able to drink lots and lots of water whenever I feel like it.
While we're on the subject of water, it is interesting to point out that there is no recorded observation of giraffes bathing. Ever. Do you think they are smelly?
The Big One
What you always wanted to know...
(When I tell people about giraffes, they always ask the same question: Do they make noise? Now you have the answer!)
Yes, giraffes make noise! It is rare, but they can moo, hiss, roar and whistle. They use these sounds to communicate with one another, like most other animals.
Can you imagine having something that tall roar at you?
What You Want to Know
Yes! Giraffes make noise! They can moo, hiss, roar, and whistle! Now you know!
Giraffes are very big. Because of that, they have very large hearts as well.
A giraffe's heart can weigh up to 25 pounds, and take about 1/3 of their body size. The muscular walls are several inches thick, and they have a lot of blood to pump! The blood pressure of giraffes is around 280/180. (For humans, it's around 130/80.) This big heart pumps about 16 gallons of blood per minute. If giraffes are chased for too long, they will suffer heart attacks and die. For this reason, scientists are very careful if they have to capture giraffes to study.
Nairobi Giraffe Centre
Where I met giraffes
While I was in Kenya, I did see some giraffes out wandering around. We drove cross-country a few times and got to see baboons, elephants, giraffes, zebras, and even camels wandering around in the wild. (Well, I'm sure a lot of the land was protected, but you get my point.) But our last few days in Nairobi, we wanted to see some more animals and couldn't afford a proper safari. Our wonderful Kenyan guide and friend, Charles, took us to the elephant orphanage and the giraffe park, along with another park for what they call a Walking Safari. (Essentially, it was a zoo with only native animals.)
The Nairobi Giraffe Centre is a wonderful place to see giraffes. They walk right up to you on the balcony of the building, and you can kiss or hug or pet them. The guides do a great job of teaching you all about the magnificent animals. They also do a lot for the community and students in the area.
In another part of the park, they have a nature walk through beautiful forest where some of the giraffes roam free, and there are many birds and monkeys as well. If you are going to Nairobi, this is a place you don't want to miss!
What was the most interesting new fact you learned about giraffes?
Every kid (and grown-up kid) needs some fun giraffes to play with!
Did you learn anything? Were you shocked by anything? Are you ready to have a giraffe for a pet? Let us know!