Scientific Name
Giraffa Camelopardalis

Common Names
See overview, below


Close Relatives

The giraffe is from the Giraffidae family which has only one other member, the Okapi. The giraffe has a very long list of common names to account for the high number of subspecies. There is only one accepted species of the giraffe, but many subspecies that may one day prove to be a new species. The scientific name Giraffidae camelopardalis represents the family (Giraffidae) and species (camelopardalis). To represent subspecies by their scientific name the species name is abbreviated, followed by the sub species scientific name. The following lists the large number of subspecies with their scientific names: Nubian Giraffe (G. c. camelopardalis), Somali or Reticulated Giraffe (G. c. reticulata), Smoky or Angolan Giraffe (G. c. angolensis), Kordofan Giraffe (G. c. antiquorum), Maasai or Kilimanjaro Giraffe (G. c. tippelskirchi), Rothschild, Baringo or Ugandan Giraffe (G. c. rothschildi), South African Giraffe (G. c. giraffa), Thornicroft or Rhodesian Giraffe (G. c. thornicrofti), and the West African or Nigerian Giraffe (G. c. peralta).

Giraffes move in loose herds on the open woodlands and grasslands of the African Savannah. Eating mostly at dusk and dawn on leaves and fruit, the Giraffe’s main food source is the acacia tree. They will drink where possible, but can survive where it is in short supply. To drink, a Giraffe must spread its front legs so its head can reach the water. It has a distinctive walking style as it moves both legs on the same side forward at the same time. At a gallop, the Giraffe can reach speeds of up to 55 km/hour and rhythmically moves its head backwards and forwards to pull forward its weight. Even though the Giraffe is a quiet animal, it does make a distinctive flute-like noise as well as grunts and moans. It has a sharp sense of hearing and can alert animals of nearby predators. Giraffe are not territorial; however they will stay within a certain area and have a male hierarchy. Mating can occur at any time of the year and calves are born after a gestation of 16 months. When caring for their young, the female Giraffe will leave their calves together during the day to feed. A calf will grow very fast when young, even up to an inch per day. By two months, the calf will be feeding on leaves and by six months, it will be quite independent of its mother. Full grown, a Giraffe will grow up to four to six meters and live up to 28 years (in captivity, not as long in the wild). The Giraffe does not have many predators, but if threatened, the Giraffe has two defense methods, it will kick its aggressor with its front legs or it will use its long neck and densely boned skull as a mallet against another Giraffe. The main predator of the Giraffe is the human. Not many African animals will attack a full grown Giraffe, but a calf will be attacked, usually by a Hyena. The Living World of Animals, Readers Digest Services Pty Ltd, 3rd Edition, 1978. World of Wildlife, Anthony and Jacqueline Nayman, Aldus Books Ltd, London, 1979.

Did you know?

  • A giraffe’s tongue is blue and can extend  more than 40cm long.
  • Each Giraffe has its own unique pattern of coat markings.
  • There are nine species of Giraffe.
  • The Giraffe has seven neck vertebrae like a human, despite its long neck.
  • A Giraffe stands while sleeping.
  • It is the tallest of all living land mammals.

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