Learn About Giraffes

Information we provide about giraffes:

  • Preferred habitat
  • Notable distinguishing features and differences between the subspecies
  • Scientific classifications of giraffe subspecies and their Latin names
  • Information about Baby Giraffes

Giraffes, with their exceptionally long legs, are by far the tallest mammals on earth.

Preferred Habitat for Giraffes

Giraffe head close-up. Click to go to our African wildlife page. Giraffe Close Up

Giraffes are found throughout the central and South African savannah (African plains), from south of the Sahara desert to as far south as South Africa.

The reticulated giraffe is the most readily recognized giraffe sub-species. It is found mainly in southern Ethopia and northern Kenya.

Identifying the Reticulated Giraffe

It has a pattern of reddish-brown patches on its hide that looks as if it has been covered with a large net. This net-like pattern gives it the name reticulated giraffe.

It has a very long neck and a small head with three horns.

Mainly found on the northern savannah regions of Africa.

The Maasai giraffe has a darker coloured hide (than giraffes with blotched patterns). It has irregularly shaped brown patches with jagged edges. Older males are usually darker in colour than female giraffes or their young. Both sexes have a pair of short, bony horns, called ossicorns; older males may have one or more additional ones.

Giraffes with Blotched Hides

They have yellower hides with odd shaped patches of various sizes.

Has two horns (ossicorns) and instead of a third horn, like the reticulated giraffe, it has just a small bump on the front of its head.

Mainly found further south in Africa.

About Giraffes Height and Weight

Males are known to grow up to 11 ft, 6 inches (3.5m) at shoulder-height and 18 ft (5.5m) tall to the top of it's head. They can also weigh as much as 3,000 lb (1,365 kg).

giraffe feeding. Click to go to our African wildlife page. Giraffe Feeding

The giraffe's height enables it to feed on foliage and shoots beyond the reach of other browsers, so it does not have much competition for food, except from other giraffes!

It strips the food from trees with its powerful lips and 18ins (450mm) long prehensile tongue.

The giraffe's tongue is blue-black or black, (possibly to prevent sunburn).

Giraffes are found mainly in the drier savannah woodlands. They prefer to feed off acacia, mimosa and deciduous trees and bushes.

Information about Young Giraffes

Female Giraffe with Nursing Calf. Click to go to our African wildlife page. Female Giraffe with Young Calf

  • A baby giraffe is called a calf
  • Average weight at birth is about 110 pounds
  • Height - over 6 feet tall
  • Stands up, unsupported, within a short time after birth
  • Can run within 24 hours after birth
  • Knows how to jump by its third day
  • Drinks milk (suckles) from its mother, until it's about 10 months old
  • Starts to nibble on shrubs and bushes within two to three months

Giraffes Scientific Classification

They belong to the Giraffidae family.

There's only one species of giraffe: Giraffa camelopardalis, with nine generally accepted subspecies.

The subspecies are distinguished by the coat markings (colour, size, and shape) and their geographic range and location.

Here are the scientific/latin names of the most common giraffes:

  • Masai Giraffe: Giraffa camelopardalis tippelskirchi
  • Reticulated giraffe: Giraffa camelopardalis reticulata
  • Rothschild Giraffe: Giraffa camelopardalis rothschildi
  • Southern Giraffe: Giraffa camelopardalis camelopardalis

The Okapi

The only other member of the Giraffidae family is the okapi, which is sometimes called the forest giraffe.

In the wild, the okapi species is only found in north-eastern Zaire. Visit our about the okapi page for more information about this little-known animal.