About the Author

Pete Thorpe

Field Guide

Right from his very first bush trip at the age of four, Pete was always enthralled by this environment. Having grown up in the Middle East, Pete’s home-away-from-home has always been a bungalow in the Greater Kruger National Park, where his family had ...

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11 Comments

on 11 Things You Didn’t Know About Giraffe

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Marinda Drake
Master Tracker

Interesting facts Pete. Giraffe are one of those iconic African animals. The best photos are always with a giraffe next to an Acacia tree. Is it only giraffe that get that virus, causing the terrible warts?

Pete Thorpe
Field Guide

Hi Marinda,

The virus is from the papilloma group, of which a human form known as Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) occurs too. From what I have been able to gather, the papilloma viruses are quite species specific. Thus, transmission between members of the same species (oxpeckers transferring between giraffe) is common, but transmission between different species is much less likely. It seems that other species do get infected, but I am unaware of examples from out here in the bush.

Victoria Auchincloss
Senior Digital Ranger

I adore many things about giraffes. I love how one minute you are looking at a family of giraffes snacking on leaves, their heads visible amongst the leaves and greenery and 20 seconds they have vanished. On our last visit to Londolozi we stopped for coffee and several giraffes were nearby. The were not worried by our being there. But there was one large male who stared at us for several minutes. I asked Bruce if we were making him nervous. Bruce said no he was trying figure out why we were not in the car and was probably surprised to learn we had legs. He went back to feeding. It was a wonderful few moments. Victoria

Joanne Wadsworth Kelley
Master Tracker

I’ve always loved Giraffes and you provided very interesting facts, many of which I was unaware. Physiologically they are a wonder! I was also astonished how fast they can run and how little sleep they require! Thanks for educating me! Very interesting,

Joan Schmiidt
Digital Tracker

Pete, I did not know that Giraffe have the biggest eyes, thickest skin, that they run 55-60KPH, and giraffe sleep sitting up. Interesting facts!

Ivy Wilensky
Digital Ranger

Thanks – always enjoy learning something new. Love your blog!

Michael and Terri Klauber
Guest contributor

Pete, What a great post! We loved getting all the details on Giraffe. Saw them drinking for the first time on our last visit. That was a funny scene for sure – legs everywhere!

Vin Beni
Guest contributor

Thanks for increasing the knowledge base, Peter. We love admiring the giraffes as their heads appear above the tree limbs and marvel at the complexity of their bending over to drink water.

Declan Porter
Explorer

Giraffe are some of the most fascinating creatures and it’s crazy to see how they function and survive when theoretically they shouldn’t be. Their whole cardiovascular system has fascinated scientists for years.

Interestingly enough their species name was recently revisited and it was proposed that based on genetic data that giraffes should be split into four separate species (each with some subspecies) rather than the single species (Giraffa camelopardalis) that had nine subspecies. There is some controversy surrounding this though and it really depends on which definition of a species you adopt.

Another interesting fact is that the species of the family Giraffidae have a bilobed canine and this is a distinguishing characteristic of the family.
Before being put into the family Giraffidae there was also some confusion as to which family they should be put into (either Bovidae or Cervidae). Like you said, a giraffe’s ossicles are covered with skin which is a characteristic of the family Cervidae (deer). Unlike Cervidae horns though, a giraffe’s horns are permanent and aren’t shed which is a characteristic of the family Bovidae. In early research they were placed in Cervidae and later moved to their own family – Giraffidae.

One other really interesting thing about a giraffe is the extensive development of a ligament known as the ligamentum nuchae. This ligament allows the giraffe to passively keep its head and neck upright with very little muscle action and energy expenditure.

Pete Thorpe
Field Guide

Hi Declan,

Thanks for this interesting information! I had never heard of the use of the canine to split families – great to learn something new.

Callum Evans
Guest contributor

I honestly did not a giraffes skin was thicker than an elephants, that is incredible!! No idea how lions are able to break through that hide!

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