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Giraffe, Africa south of the Sahara, 5 m (16 feet) tall Standing over 5 metres (16 feet) tall, the giraffe is the world's tallest animal and the largest ruminant. It has long legs, a sloping back and an extremely long neck. This means it can feed on leaves from trees, usually acacia trees, higher up than any other animal can reach. Its distinctive coat pattern acts as camouflage, enabling it to blend in with the light and shade of its savanna surroundings. Giraffes wander across large home ranges, joining together in constantly changing groups of up to 30 individuals for protection. Adult giraffes are preyed on by lions, and their calves are hunted by leopards, hyenas and wild dogs. There are several subspecies of giraffe, found in different parts of Africa. They are distinguished by the patterns on their coats: the reticulated giraffe of East Africa, for example, has thin lines between its patches, while the West African has thicker lines between them.

{alt}Giraffes on the move{more}Click to play video


Giraffes have excellent eyesight and can spot predators several several kilometres away. They are also able to run at over 50 km/h (about 30 mph) over long distances. They run with a strange lopsided gait, both legs on the same side moving at once. Females will lash out with their huge, powerful feet if a predator threatens their calves.

Despite the great length of their necks, giraffes have exactly the same number of vertebrae—neck bones—as humans: seven. Theirs are just longer.

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