The giraffe is the world’s tallest mammal. A bull giraffe usually stands about 18 feet tall. Giraffes live over 35 years. Their spots are specific to each individual giraffe, just like a zebra’s stripes or a human’s fingerprints. They are herbivores eating hundreds of pounds of leaves a week and traveling many miles to find enough food.
Giraffes have four stomachs, 230 feet of intestines, an 18-inch tongue and weigh on average 1,800 to 2,500 pounds (female and male respectively), and their lungs can hold 12 gallons of air (for perspective, human lungs hold 1.59 gallons). They can swim, but not very well and they can jump, but with those long legs, why? And speaking of those long legs, the front legs are about 10% longer than the back legs. They can run short, quick distances at 35 mph and sustained distances at 10 mph. Both walking and running, they use a pacing gait, with the legs on each side moving in unison. Giraffes travel in groups of 10–20 giraffes known as towers. They do not sleep for extended periods of time, rather only about 20 minutes, plus several two to three-minute “power naps” a day.
Giraffes have excellent eyesight and, because of their height, they can see a moving object from a mile away. They have no vocal cords, but do communicate using other sounds and gestures. They hum at night although we don’t know why.
Giraffes are known for their long necks and long legs. A giraffe’s heart can be 2 ½ feet long, a powerful pump needed to lift the blood vertically up its long neck against gravity to reach the brain. The heart itself weighs about 25 pounds and beats 150 times per minute. The heart pump is so powerful that when the giraffe bends over to drink, the pressure created because of gravity would be enough to burst the vessels in its brain, resulting in death. However, contained in the neck is a pressure-regulating system known as the rete mirabile (Italian meaning admirable network), made up of valves in the arteries and capillaries in the neck, which restricts the amount of blood that rushes towards the brain when the giraffe lowers its head. While preventing blood from rushing into the giraffe’s brain, it holds a small supply of blood underneath the brain in a “sponge” that gently expands, giving the giraffe more than enough blood to oxygenate its brain without damage while bending over to drink. These valves then reverse process when the giraffe raises its head. Working in this synchronized fashion, these valves keep the blood pressure stable regardless of the position of the neck and head.
The amazing design of this beautiful animal defies the belief that it is a result of evolution. Every part of this creation needs to work collectively at once or it could not survive. The giraffe is another example of creation by a Designer for it has exactly what it needs for its size and its environment.
“I will praise Thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are Thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well” (Psalms 139:14). Praise God, this beautiful creature is also “fearfully and wonderfully made” just as we were.
Adapted from material by Dr. Jobe Martin, D.M.D., TH.M.
Other sources: Wikipedia, livescience.com and africafreak.com