Imagine being able to peer into a second-story window without needing to stand on your tiptoes. Welcome to a giraffe’s life. As the tallest creature in the animal kingdom, the giraffe has a view that can’t be beat.

The giraffe’s long neck can reach more than 7 feet in length, which means it makes up nearly half of its overall height. Just like humans, giraffes have seven vertebrae in their necks, but theirs — unlike ours — can each be over 10 inches long. There are a couple of theories about why giraffes have such long necks. Some scientists believe it’s simply a matter of natural selection. Giraffes fight by beating each other with their heads and necks. This is called “necking.”

Male giraffes whip their necks around, using their heavy skulls like clubs. The longer and thicker the neck, the more likely a giraffe is to win a fight. Giraffes that are successful in fights are more likely to breed and produce offspring.

Others believe long necks are a result of competition for food. Giraffes share their habitat with lots of other animals — a lot of shorter animals. These shorter creatures also need to eat, snacking on plants and foliage at a height that may not even reach giraffes’ knees.

Since these shorter creatures pick over food at a lower level, giraffes’ necks allow them to reach food and nutrients that others cannot. This becomes especially important for survival in habitats where food can become scarce and droughts are fairly common. Giraffes can feed close to the ground, too, but research has shown that they prefer to eat at heights between 7 and 14 feet.

Some people suggest giraffes’ long necks are a sort of early warning system, allowing them to spot approaching predators. Most biologists say this theory is not likely, though. They suspect we would see many more animals with long necks if this were a real advantage and useful form of self-protection.

Giraffes have very few predators. Besides humans, giraffes are hunted only by lions and crocodiles. When necessary, giraffes defend themselves with a very powerful (and deadly) kick, and then make a run for it at speeds up to 30 miles per hour.

 

90 Join the Discussion

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  1. Madalyn was so excited to see today’s wonder. She brought home an “N” book from school yesterday that talked about giraffes having long Necks. She says that she knows why they have long necks … “they grow their long necks for when they need them and their big bodies are so they could help themselves and they have long necks so they can protect since other animals try to eat their faces first” There is some Kindergarten logic for you!

    • We think Madalyn’s logic is clever and creative! We appreciate her view of WONDER and the world and we hope she knows she has BIG FANS here in Wonderopolis! :-)

  2. I was glad to learn that a baby giraffe is really tall. They are five to six feet tall,
    and that’s only when they are born.
    Can’t wait until tomorrow’s wonder!!!!
    Thanks Adel!!!!!!!

    • Thanks for sharing a fun fact you learned about baby giraffes today, Adel! We think it’s AWESOME that you can’t wait to visit tomorrow’s Wonder…we LOVE hearing that! :-)

    • We think so, too, Mark! Giraffes ARE awesome and cool! Thanks for stopping by Wonderopolis today and leaving us this comment! :-)

  3. I think that giraffes are cool because they have really long necks and they have spots on them that make them look cool. I’ve always wondered what it would be like to be a giraffe for a day or two. I think that it would be cool. Although I don’t think that I would really want to be a giraffe, because I don’t want to be eaten by a lion or a crocodile.

    • We really like how you WONDERed more about giraffes and what it might be like to be one of them for a day, Cassidy! That’s some CREATIVE thinking…way to go! :-)

  4. Hey, guys. I never knew that Giraffes had only two predators. I thought they had like 20 or at least 10. Like maybe a Jaguar or a Mountain Lion. Well, for the Mountain lio,n there are two theories. One, the Giraffe could wander off into the Mountains. Two, the Mountain Lion could run out of food and wander off into the habitat where the Giraffes live. But, anyway, I have to go. Maybe I will comment today again if I get the chance. Bye.

    • Your thinking about giraffes and mountain lions wandering into each other’s habitat is super smart, Austin! We’re proud of you for doing some extra WONDERing about the predator vs. prey relationship! Thanks for visiting this Wonder today! :-)

    • Yes they are, Shundee! It is always fun to see them reach their long necks…we WONDER how they balance sometimes! :-)

    • Happy Thursday, Ella! We’re so glad to hear that you like exploring Wonderopolis and learning new things! Please tell your classmates in room 305 that we said, “hello!” :-)

  5. Okay, so I kinda don’t get it. If they just use their long necks to fight, what else do they use it for? They also use them for food to eat leaves off of trees, couldn’t they? Thats why I thought they had long necks… they said it was a competition for food, why a competition that’s like really weird… Oh, I get why they called it a competition now, because they live with a lot of other animals, shorter animals and they have to eat so.. I get it…

    • Thanks for showing us how you worked through answering some of the questions you had about giraffes by exploring this Wonder of the Day®, Sydney! It helps other Wonder Friends to see that sometimes if you do a little extra WONDERing, it helps to make your Wonderopolis learning adventure even better! :-)

    • They are really neat animals, sassycat923! Thank you for sharing this great comment with us today and for letting us know you love giraffes! :-)

  6. Here are some of our thoughts and questions about giraffes:

    1. How do they get so tall?
    2. How much do they grow in a year?
    3. About how much food do they eat in a meal?
    4. How high can they get?
    5. What kind of leaves do they eat?
    6. What do they eat in the winter?
    7. How much food does a older giraffe eat?
    8. How do you tell the difference between a male and a female giraffe?
    9. How are baby giraffes born?
    10. How can you tell how old they are?

    Here are some predictions about tomorrow’s Wonder of the Day:

    1. The tongue twister “How much wood would a woodchuck chuck?”
    2. A monkey
    3. an anteater–it has a long tongue and might get it stuck in a knot.

    :) :) :)

    • Your comments always make our day, New Century School 2/3 Class–Verona, WI! Way to go with the FANTASTIC extra WONDERing again today! You guys ROCK! We really like your thoughts and questions about giraffes and love your predictions about tomorrow’s Wonder of the Day®, too! Have a TERRIFIC Thursday! :-)

  7. Dear Wonderopolis,
    Our class from Room 305 liked the giraffe video. Can you please find a video to explain why giraffes have such long tongues? The giraffes were so cute! Are they really as “dumb as a sack of hammers”? The video was funny–our entire class loved it.
    Have a great day!
    Kids in Room 305
    PS-Ella logs onto Wonderopolis each morning before school and she posts her own comment! She loves this site! So do we!

    • Hello, Mrs. Kennedy’a Class! We’re SO GLAD you guys liked the video for today’s Wonder! Here is a link to the giraffe page on the San Diego Zoo’s website: http://www.sandiegozoo.org/animalbytes/t-giraffe.html. We think you will really like the video (it’s about a cute baby giraffe), but there are also facts about the giraffe’s tongue under the “Fun Facts” section on the left!

      Thanks so much for being GREAT Wonder Friends and WONDERing more about giraffes! We’re proud of you!

      P.S. Ella rocks! :-)

  8. Dear wonderopolis. I love the video, that is an AMAZING!!!!!!!!! Wonder! I was wondering the same thing, but I know…because they need to eat off of high branches.

    • Hi, Kaitlyn! Thanks so much for letting us know you liked the video for today’s Wonder of the Day®! We really appreciate your comment! :-)

    • We think it’s so cool that you WONDER what it would be like to be a giraffe with a SUPER long neck, Jonathan! We think you and Cassidy (see her comment above) have something in common (besides being GREAT Wonder Friends!). You both thought about things from a giraffe’s point of view! :-)

  9. Our class was surprised that giraffes aren’t as smart as other animals. It’s crazy that when giraffes are born they are as tall as an average adult. We also didn’t know that they have the highest blood pressure of all animals and the deadliest kick. The video was funny. Those tongues were so long!
    :P

    • Thanks for sharing some of the awesome things you learned together in Wonderopolis today, Ms. Blevins’ Class! It makes us super happy to hear that you thought the video was funny, too! :-)

    • We think a trip to the zoo sounds like so much fun, AP! Thanks for visiting Wonderopolis today and leaving us this great comment to let us know you were here! :-)

  10. We have just been introduced to this exciting website. Thanks for sharing all these wonders with us. We are learning a lot.

    Here are our predictions about tomorrow’s wonder:
    Cat: A cat got your tongue!
    Anteater: We liked someone els’se idea that they might get their tongue stuck in a knot.
    Fuzzy

    • Welcome to Wonderopolis, Gallagher Gang! We’re really glad you guys have been learning a lot on your visits here…it makes our day to hear that! We think your predictions about tomorrow’s Wonder ROCK! :-)

    • We just got great big smiles on our faces from reading your comment, Ella! Thanks for being such an AMAZING Wonder Friend! :-)

  11. Hi Wonderopolis!
    I loved this wonder. I wanted to ask you a
    quick question. Can you do a wonder about
    milk allergies? I suffer every day with them.
    You changed my life with the peanut allergy
    wonder. I am keeping the faith.

    • Hi, Food Allergy Girl! We’re really glad to learn that visiting the peanut allergy Wonder of the Day® helped you in some way! We think a future Wonder about milk allergies is a GREAT idea, too…thanks so much for suggesting it and for being a SUPER Wonder Friend! :-)

    • We think giraffes are cute, too, Heather! Thanks for visiting Wonderopolis today and for letting us know you loved this Wonder! :-)

  12. Hello Wonderopolis!
    I absolutely <3 your website. I would like to ask a favor. I suffer from milk allergies. Could you do a wonder to educate others about it? I was also wondering could you make a small donation to FAAN a reasearch team for finding a cure. It would really mean a lot to me and others.
    Thanks,
    Emmz

    • Hi, Emmz! We are so happy to hear that you love visiting Wonderopolis! A future Wonder about milk allergies is a GREAT idea! Thanks so much for suggesting it! We never knew there was a network for people with food allergies (FAAN). Thank you for teaching US something new today! For those Wonder Friends who would like to learn more about food allergies, you can visit the FAAN website: http://www.foodallergy.org/. :-)

    • That’s super sweet of you to think of your friend, Hannah, in such a way, Devan! Happy birthday from everyone in Wonderopolis, Hannah! :-)

    • We love your enthusiasm for WONDER, Hannah! Thank you for making us smile today with your happy comment! We like the patterns different animals “wear,” too! We think of each animal’s print as a WONDERful work of art! :-)

  13. I didn’t really know all that about Giraffes! What I really appreciated is that they can see a predator a mile away and that they can run as fast as a race horse!!! THANKS!

    • Those are two AWESOME facts about giraffes, Madalynn! Thanks for sharing what you learned by exploring this Wonder of the Day®! :-)

  14. Dear Wonderopolis,
    Cool wonder! I have no idea why giraffes have long necks! I think tomorrow’s wonder is about bugs.
    XOXOXOXOXO,
    Paige ;)

    • Hi, Paige! We encourage you to re-explore this Wonder of the Day® about giraffes…it has GREAT information about why they have long necks! :-)

    • Hi, Landon! We’re so glad you explored this Wonder of the Day® with your brother! It makes us super happy to hear when families like learning TOGETHER! :-)

  15. We are still wondering how tall a teenager giraffe is? How long are girl giraffes? We learned giraffes are 15 feet tall. Giraffes kick and bend necks when they see predators. Giraffes have long necks to see predators. Giraffes are the tallest land animals in the world.

    • That’s a VERY good reason to have a long neck, isn’t it, Alex? We WONDER if the leaves at the top of the tree taste better to animals than the lower leaves? :-)

  16. Hey!, I think giraffes are really cool animals, I bet those necks help a lot. If I had a long neck, I don’t know what I would do with it, but somehow giraffes use them! I really enjoyed this wonder today! Bye for now, I’m going to comment on the wonder of the day!

    • Hi, Carry! We think it’s cool that you tried to imagine what it might be like to have a long neck like a giraffe! Thanks for leaving us this GREAT comment! :-)

  17. Giraffes have long necks because they use them to eat leaves. I also noticed that they have long legs, long tongues and long tails.

    • You’re RIGHT, Landon! Giraffes DO have LONG legs, tongues and tails! Thanks for pointing that out to us…we really appreciate your comment! :-)

  18. Hi! In this article, I learned some new facts about giraffes. One of them is that they can run 30 miles per hour! Another thing I learned is that their necks reach more than 7 feet tall! Also I learned what necking is-when they fight. Finally, I learned the word foliage. I do have one question; how long are the young giraffes necks when they are born?
    Thanks for making me wonder!

    • We really appreciate you letting us know what you thought about this Wonder on giraffes, Megan! Thanks so much for sharing that you wished there was even more to WONDER about! YOU ROCK! :-)

  19. Wonderopolis,
    We enjoyed your post about giraffes. We all had some questions that were not answered in your video and we voted on one to ask you. We are curious to know more information about a giraffe’s heart. Is it bigger than a human heart? We know that the heart gives out after about 25 years, but we wonder if it proportionately bigger than our heart?
    Mrs. Campbell Fifth Grade Blue Group
    Condit Elementary

    • We’re so glad you WONDERed about giraffes today, Mrs. Campbell’s Fifth Grade Blue Group! You guys are AWESOME! We found this interesting resource to share with you that gives ALL SORTS of great information about giraffes: http://www.sandiegozoo.org/animalbytes/t-giraffe.html. It even says that a giraffe’s heart is 2 feet long and weighs 25 pounds…that’s BIG! :-)

      Thanks for visiting this Wonder of the Day® and for leaving us a comment! :-)

  20. Wonderopolis,
    Our fourth grade yellow group also enjoyed your information on giraffes. They had some questions about giraffes around the world too. We would like to know how tall and heavy the largest giraffe in all of history has been?
    Mrs. Campbell’s fourth grade yellow group.

    • Hi, Mrs. Campbell’s 4th Grade Yellow Group! Thanks so much for hanging out in Wonderopolis today and for letting us know you enjoyed learning about giraffes! We’re not sure how tall and heavy the largest giraffe in all of history has been, but that’s something that would be FUN to learn about! :-)

  21. Wonderopolis,

    We are students at Condit Elementary and we are in the fifth grade yellow group. We enjoyed reading and listening to the information about giraffes. We generated a list of questions and voted for one more thing to find out about giraffes. We would like to know if there is an animal that the giraffe is thought to have evolved from?
    Mrs. Campbell’s Fifth Grade Yellow Group

    • Hi there, Mrs. Campbell’s 5th Grade Yellow Group! We think it’s REALLY awesome that you guys are WONDERing more about giraffes after you explored this Wonder about them together!

      We like your WONDER questioning which animal giraffes may have evolved from! One of the AMAZING things about exploring Wonderopolis is that you get to learn a little about something that interests you, then you can do more WONDERing on your own! We like to think of it as going on a “Wonder Journey” to find out more information! We don’t know the answer to every question here in Wonderopolis, but we like to learn new things just like YOU do! We encourage each of you to embark on your own Wonder Journey to find the answers to your AWESOME question about giraffes!

      You can WONDER more by exploring books and websites, and also by asking people who are knowledgeable about the topics that interest you! :-)

  22. Hi Wonderopolis!
    I was very interested when I found this topic! I love giraffes! One new fact that I learned was that giraffes fight by beating each other with their heads and necks, and that this process is called “necking”. I also didn’t know that giraffes have a deadly kick, and that they can run up to 30 miles per hour!! I also learned two knew vocabulary words! One is drought, which means that there is hardly any water or rain in an area. Another vocabulary word that I learned was scarce, which means that a natural resource, animal species, etc… is hard to find or is very limited! I have always WONDERED how giraffes get so tall? I have also been WONDERING what the average height is for a giraffe? Thanks for having this WONDER topic be so WONDERFUL!!
    -Team McNeil 9 :)

    • You really learned some GREAT facts about giraffes, Team McNeil 9…way to go! We think those awesome vocabulary words you learned will also help you as you study more about science, animals, habitats and LOTS of other topics! Thanks for leaving us another SUPER comment! :-)

  23. Wonderopolis,
    Thank you very much for providing this wonderful video about giraffes. The video has really inspired us to WONDER and then find answers to our questions about giraffes. We had a lot of fun and enjoyed our time learning.
    -Mrs. Pruetz’s 4th Grade Orange Group

    • That is SO AWESOME, Mrs. Pruetz’s 4th Grade Orange Group! We are SUPER PROUD of you guys for WONDERing more about giraffes on your own! Please let us know some of the cool new facts you find out about giraffes, OK? We LOVE learning from our Wonder Friends like YOU, too! :-)

  24. Well, they have long necks because they reach their food in the trees. The giraffe only lives to be about 25 years old. The horns on the giraffe’s head are not for defense. It uses it to push the branches out of the way so they can get more food.

    • Hey there, Casimiro, thank you for adding to our giraffe Wonder! We really appreciate that you shared even more awesome information to Wonder about! You rock! :)

    • Thanks so much for WONDERing with us, Mrs. Stringer’s 4th Grade Homeroom! We think it’s WONDERful that you’ve been thinking of all the cool connections between giraffes and other animals – even if they’re extinct (like dinosaurs)! We hope you’ll continue to Wonder about giraffes, their lives and their habitats, to find the answers to your awesome questions. HOORAY for you, Wonder Friends! :)

  25. We were wondering why their tongues are PURPLE and BLACK! and how much a giraffe can weigh when he is born! How are the babies fed if they can’t reach?
    Do they nuzzle each other to show affection? We see this on cards all of the time :)
    And what is with their pattern? It is similar to a leopard’s and makes us think they are mimicking. We are really wondering this morning!

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Have you ever wondered…

  • Why do giraffes have long necks?
  • How long are giraffes’ necks?
  • How fast can giraffes run?

Wonder Gallery

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Try It Out

A baby giraffe is between five and six feet tall when it is born — about the height of an average adult human! The rest of us start out a wee bit smaller. A great way to track your height year after year is by keeping your own growth chart. So what are you waiting for? Start keeping track of your growth with these easy do-it-yourself growth charts!

 

Still Wondering

Explore the world of the giraffe’s natural predator — the lion — with National Geographic Xpeditions’ Lions and People: Uneasy Neighbors lesson.

 

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