The giraffe is an herbivorous mammal living in the savannas of sub-Saharan Africa. The tallest known land-dwelling animal, an adult giraffe can grow to almost 6 meters in height. There are various subspecies, distinguished primarily by the shape and design of their spots. The Reticulated or Somali giraffe has regular polygon spots separated by bright white lines, while the spots on a Masai giraffe are more irregular, with jagged edges on a beige background. The giraffe is characterized by its long neck, which can stretch up to 2,5 meters and, having only 7 vertebrates, is held up by powerful muscles. The neck allows a giraffe to reach the highest leaves on a tree, which it eats with the help of a tongue stretching half a meter long.
In order to drink, the giraffe has to stretch out its front legs and bend its neck down to the earth. The position leaves the animal vulnerable to attacks by predators such as hyenas and lions. But giraffes are no easy prey. Their height gives them an ample field of vision, allowing them to see approaching danger, and their legs and hoofs can deliver kicks strong enough to kill a lion. Giraffes live in herds. The pecking order among males is established through combat. Fighting consists of “necking,” in which rivals ripple their necks and strike one another with their heads. Top-ranking males enjoy reproductive rights with the entire herd. Pregnancy lasts 15 months and produces a single infant giraffe. Mothers have to forage for food, leaving their children unattended for hours at a time. Roughly half of all infant giraffes are killed by predators during their first year of life. People from other continents consider the giraffe one of Africa’s most compelling animals. At the end of the 15th Century, an Egyptian sultan sent a giraffe to the Medici court in Florence, then the principal Renaissance city. The exotic giraffe amazed local crowds and was immortalized in various paintings and texts of the era.