By studying the skull of a Giraffe, you can see
that their back teeth are quite far from the front area of the skull.
There is a bony ridge in the front instead of front teeth so when this boy
was feeding the giraffe, the food was taken gently and without too much worry
about being bitten. The 32 grinding teeth in back will help the
giraffe to chew up their favorite thorny acacia tree twigs and leaves.
They eat over 80 different species of plants besides the acacia leaves when
available, giving them a variety in their diet. The Giraffe's
tongue is approximately eighteen inches long and is blackish in color and
helps them pluck leaves off the trees.
Masai Giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis tippelskirchi)
- West Central Africa. The Giraffe's neck has just seven vertebrae,
which is the same as a person. Of course, the giraffes' vertebrae are
elongated to match the length of the neck. The vertebrae fit together
with special "ball and socket" joints, which allows the giraffe to move its
neck comfortably and smoothly. "Giraffes have the highest blood
pressure of any warm-blooded animal. (I found this excellent explanation
on a sign at the Stone Zoo.) The high pressure is necessary to pump
blood from the heart up to an 8 foot neck to the head. Highly elastic
valves and blood vessels in the neck allow for the sudden increase in pressure
when a giraffe lowers its head to get a drink" or to eat grass. The
Giraffe's front legs are longer than their back legs, causing a continuous
slope from its horns to its tail.
The Giraffe cow gives birth standing up, leaving
the baby calf to drop about 5 feet to the ground. Within minutes of
its birth, the baby giraffe is on its feet searching for milk from it's mother.
The baby calf will weigh about 140 pounds at birth. The baby giraffe
stays isolated from all other giraffes for one month. There is a special
area where the baby giraffes go with other young giraffes. One giraffe
mother stays behind to look after them, while the other mothers go off to
eat, coming back two or three times when the calf is hungry. There
are usually three horns on the giraffe. A baby giraffe is born with
these horns, which lie flat against the skull when it is born and then work
free during the first week after their birth. These horns are called
ossicorns. Their tails end in a tuft of dark hair.
The giraffe have wonderfully gentle brown eyes.
This is a graceful animal. Like our fingerprints, the patterns of the
giraffe's spots are all unique, with no two having the same pattern.
Their hearing is remarkable. Their good eye sight and tall height
helps them to observe lions or other predators coming from a long distance,
giving the giraffe an advantage.
In order to drink or graze on grass, a Giraffe
has to spread it's front legs wide apart and bend down. They don't have
to go to the watering hole to drink water very often, which can be awkward
as you can see. The acacia-twig tips have 75 percent water in them and
other leaves such as the mimosa and wild apricot leaves, provide the giraffe
with the water they need most of the time. When they do get to a watering
hole, they may take in eight gallons of water at a time. They
don't pant or sweat to control their body temperature. It is controlled
by their very thick skin and the size and shape of their body.
The Giraffe's tongue is approximately 18 inches
long with it being black most of the way. It is very maneuverable and
can get the leaves off the thorniest acacia trees. The long, prehensile,
hairy upper lip protects against the stab of thorns as they get the leaves.
There are usually several giraffe herds in one
large area in Africa. Giraffes are gentle and mild mammals. The
only time they may attach is when they are protecting their young from enemies
or feel threatened. Generally they would rather flee. To find
food the giraffe travels over a large area and don't have a permanent home.
The Giraffe has an enormous appetite and spend hours eating selective leaves.
They browse in the early morning and when it cools off in the evening getting
the collective moisture on trees that other animals cannot reach.
The Giraffe has wedge-shaped hoofs to carry their
heavy weight (1200 to 4000 pounds). The front of the hoof is five or
six inches high and the fetlock is very low in the back. The forefeet
are slightly larger than the hind feet since they support most of the weight
of the neck and head. The giraffe hoof is more than twice the size of
a cows hoof.
Young male giraffes will rub their necks together gently and
slowly, they twist and push and play fight and seem to like to hug.
"Necking" becomes a show of strength when older males later spar for
feminine favor by butting each other. They tire after about 20 minutes,
so usually no serious injuries occur.
A Giraffe chews its cud a great part of the day since it spends
a large part of the day eating just the choicest leaves and twigs.
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