Are Giraffes Friendly?

Are Giraffes Friendly?

Giraffes and peoples have quite an interesting relationship. On the one hand, giraffes have never been domesticated, on the other hand, they are not seen as a threat either. Humans and giraffes seem to simply exist side beside, without either friendship or conflict.

When visiting them in zoos, especially children are often fascinated by these big, but clumsy-looking animals. Not every animal that looks kind is harmless, though. So, what is the deal with giraffes? Are giraffes friendly or not? 

As it is with most animals, giraffes are not actively aggressive against humans. When they have been born in captivity, like in a zoo, they can even be very trusting and gentle. But when they feel threatened or unsafe, giraffes will attack. Giraffes are also easily spooked and might react to being startled with a dangerous kick. 

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Sometimes, male giraffes fight against one another to assert their dominance or to impress females. Since their long neck is the closest giraffes have to a weapon, they use it in a fight. Fighting giraffes slam their necks into each other repeatedly with the intent to cause serious injury.  

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Being herbivores themselves, giraffes are also prey animals for predators like lions, but they do not make it easy for them. The tall giraffes are well-versed in defending themselves with their legs, and getting kicked in the head or another sensitive part of the body can end in death for a lion.

This is why predators tend to only prey on giraffes when they cannot find any easier prey. In the case that lions need to prey on giraffes, they look for young and weak ones. Another popular target is pregnant giraffes close to giving birth because they cannot move as easily anymore and are thus less likely to either fight or flee. 

Often, predators also attack giraffes when they are drinking. In these situations, their long neck is bent to the ground, so predators can attack them at this vulnerable part of their body and sometimes even bring them out of balance. To prevent this from happening, giraffes tend to go to their watering holes in groups and alternate drinking with watching out for predators.

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Luckily, giraffes do not need to drink very often. They get most of the hydration they need from their plant-based diet so that they only need to drink water every couple of days. 

Giraffes have excellent eye-sight and can spot enemies that are still far away. When they see a predator in time, they will flee rather than attack. Giraffes can run up to 35 miles per hour over short distances. 

Why Do Giraffes Have Such Long Tongues? 

Why Do Giraffes Have Such Long Tongues
Why Do Giraffes Have Such Long Tongues?

Something that fascinated people about giraffes is how long and tall everything is about them. Not only do they have ridiculously long legs and necks, but even their tongues are also comically outsized! The reason for this is that they want to reach the highest leaves on the acacia trees, which are their favorite food and an excellent source of water.

Aside from being up to 20 inches long, the tongue of a giraffe is also special in other ways. For once, it is of a black-ish or purple color. This is to protect it from frequent exposure to the sun – giraffes spend about 12 hours every day eating. It also has a thick layer that protects it from the thorns on the acacia tree. Even when their tongue gets cut anyway, giraffes are protected by the antiseptic properties of their saliva. 

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Why Do Giraffes Have Horns on their Heads? 

Why Do Giraffes Have Horns on their Heads
Why Do Giraffes Have Horns on their Heads?

The horns of giraffes are called ossicones and they are less prominent and dangerous-looking than those of a buffalo or goat. Sometimes they are even mistaken for their ears because they are covered with fur and thus do not look much different than the rest of a giraffe’s head.

Their inconspicuous looks notwithstanding the horns can help a giraffe in a fight. The weight of the ossicones increases with age, and heavier horns lead to the ability to deal heavier blows with the head or neck. Sometimes, in some older male giraffes, you can see that the skin and fur on their head, especially on the horns, has been rubbed off due to fighting and leaves the bare bone. 

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giraffe walking and looking at the camera at sunset in Savuti, Botswana
Giraffe walking at sunset in Savuti, Botswana
Brown Giraffes
Brown Giraffes
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Adrian Volenik

I've lived around animals my whole life and I hold a Diploma in Animal Physiology. When I'm not reading or writing about wild animals, health and fitness, and technology, you can find me playing with my son and two cats. My pastimes include running, playing video games, and solving the NY Times crossword.

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