The giraffe is one of the most unique, famous animals on our planet. But, just how long is the giraffe’s gestation period? We’ll answer that question, and many more, here.
First, let’s learn a little more about these incredible creatures. For example, did you know that not only are giraffes the tallest land animals on Earth, but they’re also the largest ruminants in the world?
A ruminant is a hoofed mammal with a chambered stomach, like a sheep or a cow. But, more than that, giraffes are among Earth’s most extraordinary creatures and need to be protected for generations to come.
Read on to learn more about the giraffe gestation period!
Giraffes: The Facts
To say that giraffes are tall is the understatement of the century. In fact, newborn giraffes are as tall as adult humans. Found only in sub-Saharan Africa, giraffes are nonetheless famous all over the world. There are currently at least 1,500 giraffes living in zoos, where scientists can conduct research they wouldn’t be able to do in the wild. Like all ruminants, giraffes are herbivores and strictly eat plant material. And, like other large mammals, like elephants and rhinos, they don’t have babies very often.
Perhaps the most distinguishing feature of the giraffe is its long neck. Giraffes don’t have extra vertebrae (neck bones), they just have abnormally large vertebrae. In fact, looking at giraffes, most of their body appears to be composed of legs and a long neck. They have long, rat-like tails with a fringe of long, black hair on the tip. A narrow, upright mane travels from the middle of their shoulders to between their ears, which are large and mobile, like a horse’s ears.
Giraffe skulls are very long. They have to be, to accommodate their 21-inch long tongues. The final features of a giraffe’s head are a pair of ossicones between the ears. Ossicones are bony growths on the skull, covered by skin and hair, that resemble horns.
Finally, the giraffe’s entire body is covered in intricate, irregularly shaped, brown spots broken up by white borders.
Adult giraffes range in height from 14-19 feet, depending on their age, sex, and subspecies. Females are smaller than males. Males may weigh up to 2,500 pounds or more, while females rarely top 2,000 pounds. Giraffes are big all over; even their tails can grow up to 40 inches long. Also, their necks are often longer than a grown human is tall; giraffes’ necks can reach eight feet in length. They use their incredible height, and long necks, to reach leaves high in the trees. Since they’re the tallest animals out there, giraffes face little competition for food.
Distribution and Habitat
Giraffes occupy a wide distribution of disparate ranges. That is to say that, while giraffes occur in multiple parts of Africa, populations are often separated from one another. There are subspecies of giraffes living in Chad, South Africa, Niger, and Somalia, among other countries. They occupy savannahs and light woodlands, where they forage for food and keep an eye out for predators.
For the most part, giraffes are gentle creatures. However, if faced with danger, or, in the case of males, competition for a mate, they can use their necks, heads, and legs as formidable weapons. Normally, giraffes live for around 40 years. But, young giraffes are often preyed on by lions, wild dogs, hyenas, leopards, cheetahs, and even crocodiles. When attacked by low-to-the-ground predators, giraffes use their long legs and sharp hooves to kick.
How Many Days are Giraffes Pregnant?
A giraffe’s gestation lasts anywhere from 400-460 days, or, from 13-15 months. Giraffes do not form monogamous pairs. Rather, dominant males fight each other for mating rights, with winners getting ready access to females. Female giraffes can get pregnant at any time of the year and come into heat every 15 days. Once their calves are born, mother giraffes tend to stick together in ‘nursery’ herds.
How Many Babies Does a Giraffe Give Birth to?
Giraffes almost always have a single calf at a time. However, twins are not unheard of. Giraffes don’t reach sexual maturity until four or five years old for females, and three or four years old for males. Male giraffes take no part in the raising or protecting of babies.
How Often Do Giraffes Reproduce?
Baby giraffes are dependent on their mothers for the first 6-8 months of life. After that, they’re weaned off milk and begin eating solid food. By the time they’re 12-14 months old, they’re fully independent. Female giraffes may have a calf every 1-2 years.
Why Do Giraffes Give Birth While Standing?
Female giraffes give birth standing up because if they were to lay down, they would be like sitting ducks for any nearby predator. Therefore, baby giraffes first experience the world through a plummet to the Earth. However, within a few hours of this terrifying birth, they’re up and running and fully capable of walking on their own.
How Far Does a Baby Giraffe Fall at Birth?
Female giraffes are very tall, and their wombs sit about eight feet from the ground. So, baby giraffes fall about eight feet down at birth. But, don’t worry; they’re literally built for it. They spend the first few weeks of life mostly hiding from predators. But, once they’ve developed enough muscle in their legs, baby giraffes have a good chance of outrunning predators.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Craig Fraser/Shutterstock.com
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