The giraffe family is a specialized offshoot of the deer family. It probably originated in the Old World and is now reduced to only 2 species, both found in Africa. Both animals have unique, skin-covered, blunt horns, which are not shed. The giraffe is the tallest terrestrial animal.

This animal is the tallest living species on the planet, standing up to 587 cm (231 in) in height. It is also the heaviest ruminant.


The giraffe’s origins trace back to an antelope-like ancestor that lived in Europe and Asia between 30 and 50 million years ago, and grew to just 300 cm (120 in) tall. Modern giraffes first appeared about one million years ago. Their body shape means that their heart must produce double the blood pressure of a typical mammal, to pump blood up to the brain. As a result, the giraffe’s heart can weigh up to 10 kg (22 lb) and measures around 61 cm (2 ft) in length.


Distribution: Found in a number of different areas of Africa, south of the Sahara, particularly in eastern and southern parts. Populations are quite isolated.

Habitat: Savanna.

Weight: Females 1100 – 1600 kg (2425 – 3527 lb); males 1300 – 2000 kg (2865 – 4410 lb).

Length: 457 – 570 cm (180 – 224 in), including tail.

Maturity: 3 – 5 years.

Gestation Period: 434 – 465 days; weaning occurs 12 – 16 months later.

Breeding: 1, standing 180 cm (72 in) tall at birth.

Food: Herbivorous, browsing at high level, particularly on mimosa and acacia trees.

Lifespan: 20 – 25 years; up to 28 in captivity.

Neck structure

In spite of its length, there are no more bones in the neck than there are in other mammals. The individual vertebrae are simply more elongated.


Up to nine different races are recognized, varying in size and patterning.


The keen eyesight and height of giraffes mean they can spot possible danger from afar, and alert other animals, too.


The horns are bald in male giraffes, because of the way they nuzzle females.


In spite of their height, giraffes will occasionally sit down, but they can sometimes have difficulty standing up again.