Giraffe (Rothschild’s Giraffe) / Giraffa camelopardalis rothschildi

Did you know...

A giraffe’s neck can grow up to two metres in length and has seven neck bones – the same as humans

Giraffes can gallop at up to 56 kilometres per hour to avoid predators

Each giraffe has a unique coat pattern

At DZG we hold Rothschild’s giraffes which are the world’s rarest subspecies of giraffe. Named after naturalist, Lord Walter Rothschild, they are also known as Baringo giraffes after the Lake Baringo area of Kenya.

They are easily identified by the colouring of their coat, which is made up of ragged brown patches separated by lighter creamier-coloured hair, with no markings to the lower leg. Each giraffe has a unique coat pattern, like a fingerprint.

Giraffes form small scattered herds of up to 10 animals, with young males living together in bachelor groups, but becoming solitary as they mature.

Adult males establish a dominance hierarchy, by aggressive sparring involving necking – similar to arm wrestling in humans. The dominant male spends most of his time seeking females in season.

After a 15-month gestation the female gives birth to a single calf, although twins occasionally occur. The mother gives birth standing up and the baby falls to the ground.

Newborn giraffes are about 1.8m tall.

Within a few hours of being born, calves can run around and are indistinguishable from a week-old calf; however, for the first two weeks, they spend most of their time lying down, guarded by the mother.

Giraffes are herbivores who exclusively browse for vegetation. They feed on the rough shoots of plants and their diet consists mainly of the thorny leaves of acacia trees. The thorns do not bother the giraffes as they have a very rough tongue and lips.

They spend up to 20 hours a day feeding.

The tongue, about 45cm in length, enables them to reach up into trees and pull down leaves.

The front section is darkly coloured to prevent sunburn during frequent exposure when feeding.

Males typically feed with the neck and head stretched vertically, while the females feed on lower vegetation with the neck bent and the head held down.

These feeding arrangements mean that the Giraffe faces no competition for food. Due to the enormous length of their neck they have special valves in the blood vessels of their neck to stop the blood rushing to their heads when they bend down to drink.