The giraffe is the tallest animal in the world, with some males reaching 18 feet (5.5m) in height. This height enables giraffes to graze on foliage beyond the reach of all animals but the elephant. Hovering over the tree line, giraffes use their long prehensile (adapted for grasping) tongue (12 inches; 30 cm) to pluck leaves easily for consumption. Both sexes possess two skin-covered horns. The average life span is 15-20 years, while maximum age in the wild is around 25 years.
The giraffe's coat contains dark patches which help conceal the animal when they hide among trees. With their long legs, giraffes can gallop for short distances at speeds up to 30 mph (48 kmh).
How tall are baby giraffes at birth?
Although the giraffe's diet includes more than 100 different types of plants, the bulk of their food intake consists of acacia (thorny trees with small yellow or white flowers) and mimosa leaves (tropical plants, shrubs, and trees with clusters of small flowers). To maintain their large size (giraffes weigh as much 3,000 pounds (1,360 kg)), a giraffe must consume up to 75 pounds (34 kg) of foliage per day. Giraffes do most of their feeding during the first and last hours of daylight. Because they receive most of their water intake from green leaves, giraffes may go several days without drinking. When a giraffe does drink, it must straddle or bend its forelegs to reach the ground with its mouth.
Giraffes were formerly found in the drier regions of the Northern and Southern Savanna in Africa. Today, their range is substantially reduced to pockets throughout western Africa, though substantial populations remain in east and southwest Africa.
Unlike many other African ungulates (hoofed animals), the giraffe is relatively independent, rarely socializing or roaming in herds once they mature. Though individuals may come together to eat from the same tree or to form protective groups against predators, such groups seldom stay together for more than 24 hours. The rare exception are associations of small calves, which like to cluster, bringing their mothers to a central location. In addition, young males tend to associate in bachelor herds until after puberty, after which they become more solitary, looking for food and estrous females.
Giraffes spend around 50% of their day feeding, with the female being more selective in looking for nutritious foliage. The rest of day is spent ruminating (30%) and walking (20%).
At night, most giraffes ruminate, although they do so lying down. All giraffes will lie down part of the night to rest, although periods of actual sleep are short and infrequent.