There’s far more to see on your African wildlife safaris than the ‘Big 5’. Although these majestic and inspiring creatures have drawn many visitors to the country hoping to spot them, there are many more fascinating creatures to observe as well on a safari in Africa. One animal that’s a little more commonplace is the giraffe. With their long necks and distinctive colouration, they certainly catch the eye of visitors, and there are plenty of interesting facts about giraffes to learn that really add to the experience of seeing them in the wild. Read on for a few things you might not have known about giraffes.
Though it may be hard to spot from the ground on your African wildlife safaris, a giraffe actually possesses small horns on the top of its head. They’re formed from ossified cartilage, and known as ossicones, as they are covered in skin and fur rather than becoming true external horns (as on many species such as deer). The appearance of the horns is often a reliable way to be able to tell the gender of the giraffe, as female giraffes have tufts of hair on top of their horns. The hair of the male giraffe is often worn away from combat!
You’d be forgiven for thinking that giraffes, with such long necks and spindly legs, would often shy away from fighting – but you’d be mistaken! Often, observers on African wildlife safaris can see giraffes standing neck-to-neck (where the term ‘necking’ derives from) and testing their strength. After this test of strength, the stronger giraffe can strike with a powerful blow – and his own head is the weapon. The longer a neck and the heavier a head, the greater the force with which a giraffe can strike, and occasionally he may knock his opponent to the ground. Although it sounds violent, the fights rarely last for more than a few minutes, and rarely end with substantial harm done.
The giraffe has fascinated observers for centuries. Arab prophets and poets considered the giraffe the ‘queen of beasts’, for its fragile features and delicate form. Eastern sultans prized them as special pets, and it’s alleged that Roman leader Pompey kept ten at his theatre in Rome. Visitors on African wildlife safaris are keen to observe giraffes, but they remain a subject of scientific fascination, too. Recently, NASA has been studying the giraffe’s circulatory system, keen to replicate the animal’s ability to keep blood from pooling in its lower body. It’s thought it will help astronauts returning from space.