Okapi vs Giraffe: What Are Their Differences?

Written by Jeremiah Wright
Published: May 29, 2022
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The okapi is a rare herbivorous animal found in a small area of Central Africa’s tropical forests. Their scientific name is Okapi johnstoni. They have long necks relative to their body, with horizontal stripes on their behinds, making them appear zebra-like. Despite their deer-like appearance, the okapis are actual surviving ancestors of giraffes.

The giraffe is a long-necked, hoofed mammal that is natively found grazing in the open woodlands of sub-Saharan Africa. It is the tallest land animal and the closest relative to the okapi. Unlike the okapi, they are not scarce and are easy to find.

We are sure you want to know not just the easy but also the substantial differences between an okapi and a giraffe. Let’s examine essential details to distinguish these closely related land animals.

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Comparing Okapis vs Giraffes

Okapis and giraffes differ in size, appearance, habitat, predators, diet, and behavior.
Height4.9ft – 6.5ft13ft – 20ft
Weight440lbs – 660lbs1,200lbs – 4,200lbs
Appearancered-brown colored coat of fur with horizontal, white striped markingswhite skin coat of fur with brown or reddish markings
HabitatDense mountain forestOpen woodland and Savannah
PredatorsLeopard, Serval, HumanLions, Leopards, Hyenas
PreyLeaves, shoots, fruitsLeaves, fruits, seeds
ReproductionGestational (15 months)Gestational (15 months)
Lifespan20 – 30 years20 – 25 years

The Key Differences Between Okapis and Giraffes

The key differences between okapis and giraffes are size, appearance, habitat, predators, diet, and behavior.

Let’s explore these differences in detail!

Okapi vs. Giraffe: Weight and Height

Tallest Animals: Giraffe

A giraffe weighs between 1,200 and 4,200 pounds.

©Eugen Haag/Shutterstock.com

In terms of weight and height, the okapi falls short of the giraffe’s anatomy. Giraffe – the tallest land animal on earth, weighs three times the size of an okapi. Where an okapi weighs between 440 and 660 pounds, a giraffe weighs between 1,200 and 4,200 pounds. There is a considerable difference in weight between these relatives. An okapi weighs less than a giraffe.

For height, the okapi’s length is between 4.9 ft and 6.5 ft. A giraffe stands between 13 and 20 feet tall. When you find the towering animal, you will have no problem recognizing which is a giraffe.

Okapi vs. Giraffe: Appearance

Coolest Animals: Okapi

The okapi has a long head and a dark muzzle with large ears, which allows it to detect prey easily.

©seth miles/Shutterstock.com

The okapi’s appearance makes it one of the strangest animals alive in the world today. It has a long neck, like its ancestors, which it uses to reach leaves. They have a reddish-brown colored coat of fur with horizontal, white stripes on their hindquarters and at the top of their legs. The okapi has a long head and a dark muzzle with large ears, which allows the okapi to detect prey easily.

Of course, the giraffe has a long neck – longer than the okapi. Its long neck allows it to reach for fruits, leaves, and seeds that are usually out of reach for other animals. Funny enough, this long neck leads into a short body, with long and thin, straight legs and a long tail with a black tuft at the tip that keeps flies away. Each giraffe is unique in its markings, so they vary significantly between the different giraffe species in size, color, and amount of white. They are white with brown or reddish spots and markings covering their bodies except for their white lower legs. All giraffes have large eyes that, along with their height, give them excellent vision and small horn-like ossicones on the top of their heads.

Giraffes are ruminant animals—their various stomach chambers perform different functions in digesting food.

Okapi vs. Giraffe: Habitat and Distribution

The okapi lives in the dense tropical rainforests of the north-eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, generally at an altitude of between 500 and 1,000 meters. They are timid and scarce animals and rely heavily on the very thick foliage around them to protect them from lurking predators. Okapis are also found in areas with slow-moving freshwater sources.

The continent’s nine giraffe species are found in various countries, each exploiting its own ecological niche. They inhabit open woodlands and savannah, where their height enables them to see great distances and watch out for danger. Previously found even in North Africa, existing giraffe populations today are restricted to parts of sub-Saharan Africa, with the largest concentrations preserved in national parks.  

Okapi vs. Giraffe: Predators and Threats

Longest Tail: The Giraffe

Giraffes are preyed on by leopards and hyenas.

©PLANET EARTH/Shutterstock.com

The leopard is the major predatory threat to the okapi. The nature of the okapi’s habitat serves as a protection from most threats. But with a leopard, the okapi is threatened, as leopards are skillful feline hunters that rest in trees. Hence, the acute hearing of the okapi cannot detect above-the-ground movements of the leopard. Other threats, however, are the serval and human hunters. The okapi’s population is threatened mainly through deforestation and loss of habitat.

The giraffe co-inhabits the Savannah with many carnivorous predators. Hence, it is mainly at risk. Its primary predatory threat is lions. They are also preyed on by leopards and hyenas. Giraffes can protect themselves when their attackers come close by kicking them. However, their young (calves) are vulnerable and need to be actively protected. Human hunters also threaten it.

Okapi vs Giraffe: Diet and Prey

Weirdest Animal: Okapi

Okapis eat fruits, berries, and other plant parts, as well as leaves, shoots, and twigs.


The okapi is a herbivorous animal – it survives on a diet of only plant matter. They eat fruits, berries, and other plant parts, as well as leaves, shoots, and twigs that they draw into their mouths with their long prehensile tongues. The okapi occasionally eats fungi and more than 100 different plants, many of which are poisonous to other animals and humans. Along with this wide variety of plant material, the Okapi also sometimes eats reddish clay, which provides essential salt and minerals to its plant-based diet.

The giraffe’s height gives it an advantage in the competition since other animals cannot reach those heights. They eat up to 60 different species of plants throughout the year. Giraffes eat primarily from acacia trees but also browse for wild apricots, flowers, fruits, and buds, along with seeds and fresh grass just after the rain. Giraffes can survive for up to three weeks without drinking water. They get 70% of their moisture from their food, so they need to drink very little. However, when they do come across clean water, they must spread their front legs (which are longer than the hindlegs) to get their heads close enough to the ground to drink. 

Okapi vs. Giraffe: Behavior

Okapis are solitary animals except for the time mothers spend with their calves. However, they tolerate other individuals and may occasionally feed together in small groups for a short time. An okapi has overlapping territories, with males occupying a larger settlement than females, which they mark with urine and by rubbing their necks on trees. Males fight one another with their necks to both settle disputes over territory and a female mate during the breeding season. Okapis also communicate with one another using quiet “chuff” sounds. They rely heavily on their hearing when they can not see far enough.

The giraffe’s large size means it has to eat in large quantities, so it spends most of the tolerable morning and evening eating. They rest when the hot midday sun is out and regurgitate their food (known as “cud”) just before consuming it again. A herd of female giraffes stays together day and night to protect their young, whereas the male is solitary. The males fight by bumping heads and interlocking necks until a hierarchy of dominance is established. The winner gets to mate with the females.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © slowmotiongli/Shutterstock.com

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About the Author

I hold seven years of professional experience in the content world, focusing on nature, and wildlife. Asides from writing, I enjoy surfing the internet and listening to music.

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