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The world's tallest land mammal, the giraffe, has nine sub-species including the Rothschild, Nubian, Rhodesian and Angolan. These sub-species are often recognized by the type of markings they bear and the area in which they live. Other than these slight differences, they are all essentially the same and can interbreed successfully.
The giraffe is a large animal with long legs and a long neck, light tan in color with patterns of dark patches which are unique to individual giraffes. Males can stand up to 18 feet in height and weigh 3,000 lbs., while females are smaller at around 16 feet and 2,500 lbs. Giraffes also have two small, straight horns on the top of their heads and a tongue which can be up to 20 inches in length.
Habitat and Range
Giraffes are found in several countries on the African continent including Sudan, Somalia, Kenya and Nigeria. They are often found on open grassland, wooded savannas and open woodland. They do stay close to sources of water, but prefer dry areas to tropical forests.
Giraffes are herbivores and have to eat in the region of 140 lbs. of food per day. They feed on the leaves and foliage of evergreen and deciduous trees, using their height to reach the top branches that other grazing animals cannot reach. Some of the trees they eat from contain sharp thorns, a problem the giraffe combats with its long nimble tongue.
The giraffe has no set mating season and young can be born year-round, with the typical pregnancy lasting 15 months. The young are born at already around 6 feet in height at birth. In the wild they typically live for around 15 years, but can live longer in captivity.
A healthy adult giraffe generally has little to fear in the way of predators except for, of course, Africa's top carnivore the lion, with which it shares much of its range. Lions are a danger to young, sick and injured animals and have been known, in times of hunger, to bring down healthy adult giraffes.
- giraffe image by TheThirdMan from Fotolia.com