The African Giraffe: Here are some interesting facts about them

Thanda Team

One of the animals guests love to see on an African safari is the African giraffe. This tallest of all the land mammals, with its skyscraper neck and eyeballs as large as tennis balls, can be seen on Thanda Safari  and many other reserves in South Africa and Africa.

There are nine sub-species of the African giraffe, the largest of which is the Masai giraffe in Kenya and Tanzania, followed by the southern giraffe in South Africa and other parts of southern Africa.

The African giraffe’s habitat includes large, open savanna areas with trees for browsing, shade and shelter. On Thanda Safari they favour the acacia savannas as the leaves of the acacia trees are their main source of food here. It’s incredible to watch them using their long tongues to access the leaves between the acacia’s large, sharp thorns.

The giraffe on an African safari is fairly easy to spot because, despite their unique patterning that helps to camouflage them in the wild, their height gives them away. As the Zulu people say “They are taller than the trees”, hence the Zulu name for the giraffe is “indlulamithi”. Male giraffes can exceed 5.5 meters and females can reach about 4.5m.


Interesting facts about the African giraffe that you will learn about and experience on safari, include:

An easy way to distinguish a male from a female giraffe is to look at their horns. The tops of the horns on a male are almost always bald from fighting, while a female’s horns will be covered with hair.

They sleep very little, in short cycles of about 35 minutes, and no longer than 4.5 hours a day, and they generally sleep standing up. They cannot put their heads down for too long as they need to maintain their phenomenally high blood pressure, as much as 280/180 (twice that of humans) to pump the blood from their 11kg hearts all the way to their brain, some two metres vertically. When they need to drink water, they spread their long legs and have a special valve system that closes their arteries and temporarily reduces their blood pressure.

On Thanda Safari one of the African giraffe facts that guests often ask is how they give birth. The female gives birth standing up and the calf has a dramatic start to life with a 1m50 fall to earth as it is born. The calf weighs about 100 kilograms at birth and stands up and walks off with its mother soon after as it would be too vulnerable lying down.

The collective noun for giraffes is ‘a tower of giraffes’ and if they are on the move, it is “a journey of giraffes”.

Giraffes are very much part of the Thanda Safari experience and one of the most iconic images is of a giraffe silhouetted against an African sunset, which guests often photograph and associate with their unforgettable safari experience.


Majestic is a term that is often overused but it is absolutely appropriate and something guests never fail to say when they see a South African giraffe, also known as a southern giraffe.

Along with the Big Five, the giraffe is one of the iconic African animals that guests most want to see. It is so unusual looking with its impossibly long neck and bush-perfect patterning that guests often wonder how it came to be. There is an African legend about why the giraffe has such a long neck, that goes like this:

Once upon a time when all the animals had been created, God spoke to each species. When God addressed the female giraffe, she made an extra effort to stretch her neck heavenwards to hear God more clearly. God rewarded her for this by allowing her and her family to keep their long, elegant necks so that they could reach the tender leaves on the highest branches of the tallest trees. The message in this story is that extra effort and attention are often rewarded.

At Thanda Safari you will see giraffes reaching to eat the tender leaves between the thorns of the acacia trees. Sometimes you will see them in larger herds, sometimes smaller; they do not have fixed family groups the elephant or buffalo. Older males often separate themselves or you will find several females together or bachelor groups that then have to fight for the females, ferociously hitting one another with their powerful necks. Giraffes have an elaborate mating ritual, the male needs to wait, sometimes for days, until she is ready. Gestation is 15 months and the females have a calf every two or so years.