The Giraffe is one of the world's tallest mammals. It is known for its long neck, long, thin legs, and its dark brown spots on a whiteish body. Male giraffes are taller than females: males can be up to 19 feet tall while females average 16 feet. A giraffe weighs between 1,800 and 3,000 pounds with males heavier than females. They live for about 25 years in the wild. Giraffes have small knobs or horns on the tops of their heads to protect the head in case the animal is in a fight. Their thin legs end in hoofs.
Giraffes can be found in the savannas of eastern, southern, and central Africa. They like the dry climate and open plains as well as denser forest where they find the plants that they most often eat. Giraffes eat almost all types of plants but most often will eat the leaves of tall trees, especially the acacia tree. It is hard for giraffes to reach plants near the ground; their long legs and long neck puts them off balance and in danger. The tough lips and teeth of a giraffe protect it from any thorns it may find. Did you know that giraffes can go for several days without drinking water? Instead, they use the moisture in the leaves they eat to survive.
Unlike some other mammals, giraffes are generally calm, social animals. They live and travel in loose herds without any formal organization or leadership. They do not mark territory or attack other animals. These herds include male and female giraffes of all ages. Female giraffes mate beginning at about age 5; males will begin at age 8. The female carries her offspring for 15 months, after which she gives birth to a single young calf. The calf is about 6 feet tall at birth and can stand within 10 minutes! The mother nurses the calf until it is able to fend for itself. Soon young calves learn to run as fast as 35 miles per hour and use their long necks to defend themselves against enemy animals.