LIVE WEBCAM - GIRAFFES AT SAN DIEGO ZOO
More info: Due to their stature and distinctive coat pattern, it was once believed that the giraffe was a cross between a camel and a leopard – hence their Latin name of Giraffa Camelopardalis. The first giraffe was brought to Europe by Julius Caesar in 46 BC. The giraffe came from Alexandria and formed part of a triumphant return to Rome, after years of civil war.
Giraffes are even-toed ungulates, which means they have two weight-bearing hooves on each foot, and are in the order Artiodactyla, which also includes antelopes, cattle, goats, sheep, caribou, moose, hippos and pigs. The giraffe is the tallest living terrestrial animal and the largest ruminant.
Giraffes live primarily in savanna areas in the sub-Saharan region of Africa. Their extreme height allows them to feed on leaves and shoots located much higher than other animals can reach. In particular, they seek out acacia trees and use their long tongues to strip leaves from the thorny branches. Giraffes will spend most of the day eating and a full-grown giraffe consumes over 45 kg (100 lb.) of leaves and twigs a day.
The male giraffe is both taller and heavier than the female. Both sexes have skin-covered horn-like protuberances called ossicones, on the top of their heads. Female ossicones are smaller and have a small tuft of hair on top. The ossicones are used to protect the head when males fight, which involves swinging their necks at each other in a show of strength called “necking.”
With such a massive body, it is no surprise that the giraffes' organs and other body parts are equally huge. Their tongues are a substantial 21 inches (53 centimeters) long, and their feet are 12 inches (30.5 cm) across. A giraffe's heart is 2 feet (0.6 m) long and weighs about 25 lbs. (11 kg). Giraffes' blood vessels are equipped with valves that prevent blood from backtracking due to gravity. Their lungs can hold 12 gallons (55 litres) of air . The enlarged lungs compensate for the trachea's extensive length, as the air travels up the very long neck. Despite the giraffe having such a long neck, it still has 7 bones the same as a human.