Giraffes only eat leaves
Rough start in life
A giraffe's pregnancy lasts 15 long months. When the time comes, the giraffe gives birth to its young standing up. First the front legs slide out, only then the head. The horns are laid back. When the head is born, the hardest part for the giraffe is done. A little later, the young falls to the ground - about two meters deep.
Despite this rough start in life, the young giraffe hardly has any time to rest. The mother licks it dry with her strong tongue and urges it to get up. As soon as it stands on its own two feet, it begins to suckle from its mother.
After a few hours it can even run. However, this is also necessary, because lionesses often lie in wait for giraffe cubs in the wild. The mothers can then only try to defend their young with kicks.
The main thing is to eat
A young giraffe grows three centimeters a day. During the first time it stays as close as possible to the mother. When scared, it hides between their legs. Several giraffe cows often join together to form a kind of "crawling group". They supervise their children together so that there is enough time for all mothers to eat.
When the giraffe cub is two weeks old, it will already begin to nibble on the first leaves. However, at this time it cannot digest it, but feeds on breast milk.
When the youngster is six months old, it has to eat leaves to be full. From now on, like all giraffes, it spends most of the day eating acacia leaves. There is little time left to play.
When a giraffe tries to eat, it grabs the leaves of a tree with its long tongue - in adults it can be up to 45 centimeters long - and plucks them off. The leaves are swallowed without chewing. Later the giraffes chew what they have eaten again, much like a cow.
While giraffes eat or ruminate almost all the time, they only drink about every two days. Because their legs are longer than their necks, they have to spread their front legs wide apart to be able to drink - a position in which a giraffe is particularly susceptible to attack by enemies.
When the male giraffe bulls are three years old, they leave the pack to live alone or with their peers. They often fight among themselves to measure their strength. Because later only the strongest bull is allowed to mate with the giraffe cows in a pack. While the young bulls have to survive on their own, the young cows, on the other hand, often stay close to their mother in their birth area.
Cows and bulls on separate paths
Giraffe cows live in packs. There everyone has equal rights - they do not have a leader. The composition of a pack also changes frequently, the cohesion is rather loose. The animals can easily move a kilometer away from each other to eat. It is enough for them not to lose sight of each other.
Giraffes communicate with one another via infrasound (sounds with a low frequency that humans cannot hear) or by moving their necks or tails. If danger threatens, the giraffes fall into a quick gallop.
They move in the passageway, like camels, for example. This means that you always lift the two legs on one side first, then those of the other. A giraffe can run as fast as a lioness. If need be, it can reach top speeds of up to 60 kilometers per hour.
In contrast to the giraffe cows, the bulls tend to be loners. They can sometimes be more than 5.50 meters tall. If they meet a male conspecific, they fight for supremacy in the area. One bull hits the other's neck with his head.
The horns - usually two, in rare cases four and usually a central hump - are used in combat. However, the opposing cops are not interested in seriously hurting each other. When they know who the stronger is, the loser withdraws.
The winner is allowed to mate with the giraffe cows in a pack. The bull recognizes which cow is ready to mate by its smell. From then on he follows her every step of the way. At some point the cow stops and flaps its tail to indicate that it is ready.
The actual pairing is then an act of seconds. After just a few days, the cow and the bull separate again. The males do not take care of the offspring.
Fur markings like a fingerprint
Similar to a fingerprint, each giraffe's coat is unique. It remains in every animal for a lifetime, only the color of the fur darkens somewhat with increasing age.
In the wild, giraffes can live up to 25 years old, in zoos up to 35 years old. Different subspecies of giraffes can be distinguished by the type of drawing. There are, for example, the reticulated giraffes that live in the semi-deserts in northern Kenya, the Angola giraffes and the Masai giraffes in southern Kenya and Tanzania.
The giraffe is a cloven-hoofed animal. Today most of the giraffes live in nature reserves in East Africa. The name "giraffe" comes from the Arabic and means "the lovely one". The animal owes its Latin name, "giraffa camelopardalis", to the Romans. It reminded the peculiar creature with the long neck and patterned fur of a kind of mixture of a camel and a leopard.
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