Thursday, March 12, 2009
The giraffe is an African even-toed ungulate mammal, the tallest of all land-living animal species, and the largest ruminant.
A giraffe is covered in large, irregular patches of yellow to black fur separated by white, off-white, or dark yellowish brown background. It will have spots covering their entire bodies, except their underbellies, with each giraffe having a unique pattern of spots.
The average mass for an adult male giraffe is 2,630 lb while the average mass for an adult female is 1,830 lb). It is approximately 14 ft to 17 ft tall, although the tallest male recorded stood almost 20 ft.
Both sexes have horns, although the horns of a female are smaller. The prominent horns are formed from ossified cartilage, and are called ossicones. The appearance of horns is a reliable method of identifying the sex of giraffes, with the females displaying tufts of hair on the top of the horns, where as males' horns tend to be bald on top — an effect of combat. Males sometimes develop calcium deposits which form bumps on their skull as they age, which can give the appearance of up to three additional horns.
The giraffe is related to deer and cattle, but is placed in a separate family, the Giraffidae, consisting of only the giraffe and its closest relative, the okapi.
Its range extends from Chad in Central Africa to South Africa. The giraffe is a protected species in most of its range. The total African giraffe population has been estimated to range from 110,000 to 150,000. Kenya (45,000), Tanzania (30,000), and Botswana (12,000), have the largest national populations.