Did you know giraffes are the tallest land animals in the world? A giraffe's legs, at 6 feet (1.8m) tall, are taller than most people. And that neck! The neck alone is another six feet. Put all this height together, along with the height of the body, and male giraffes stand almost 19 feet (5.8 m) tall. This gives them access to yummy leaves that are out of reach for most other African herbivores. Acacia leaves are their favorites. Acacias have nasty thorns, but giraffes can use their incredible, 18-inch (46 cm) tongues to grab the leaves without getting prickled. Giraffes eat about 75 pounds (34 kg) of leaves per day to fuel their massive bodies.
Being the tallest animal has its challenges. For example, pushing blood all the way up to a head that's almost in the stratosphere requires a massive heart with thick, muscular walls. The giraffe's heart is 2 feet (61 cm) long and weighs 25 pounds (11 kg). Um... a 25-pound heart is the size of 50 human hearts.
There is also the problem of getting a drink of water. To get their mouth to the surface of a pond or stream, giraffes have to spread their front legs wide in an awkward position. This position makes them vulnerable to predators, so it's a good thing (for the giraffe) they only need to drink once every few days. They get most of the water they need from the leaves they eat. They spend so much time eating that they sleep only 5 to 30 minutes per day, broken up into 1-to-2-minute naps, which they often do standing up.
There's also the problem of giving birth. Giraffes do everything standing up, including giving birth. This means that a giraffe calf's first experience out in the world is a five-foot fall onto the ground! Welcome to your life, kid.
Here's something that will blow your mind. Even with that 6-foot neck, giraffe's only have seven neck vertebrae, the same number that humans have. Each giraffe neck bone is about twenty times longer than a human neck bone.
- Giraffe with calf - DepositPhotos
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