Giraffe Facts

Learn All about Our Long-Necked Friends.

Cheyenne Mountain Zoo has the largest reticulated giraffe herd of any North American zoo. We currently have 15 in our herd!

Translation, please?

Giraffa camelopardalis reticulata
The scientific name for giraffe means “camel-leopard-like one who walks swiftly.”
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Reticulated Giraffe Information

(Sub-specie at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo)


Physical Characteristics

Features of reticulated giraffe:

  • The giraffe is the tallest living mammal with an overall height of 15-19′. Shoulder height is 8-12′; head/shoulder length is approximately 13′ for the male.
  • Weight is 1,100-2,800 lbs.
  • The reticulated giraffes are handsomely patterned in golden browns, with a coarsely netted (reticulated) pattern mainly quadrangular in shape.
  • Males and females have stiff manes along their necks.
  • Both sexes have horn-like structures called ossicones (smaller on the females) on top of their heads between their ears. These ossicones are present at birth in the form of small knobs of cartilage covered with skin and hair which become bony nodules with age.
  • They have seven vertebrae in the neck, the same as humans and most other mammals.
  • The tail measures up to one yard with a terminal tuft of stiff, black hair.
  • They have long tongues that measure 18-21 inches. The inner part of the tongue is pink in color, and then changes to a purplish-black color for the last 6 inches that are commonly visible. See them up-close during a Giraffe Feeding Experience.

Adaptations & Ecology


  • Giraffes have long legs and necks, long, tough, prehensile tongues, and leathery mouths for food gathering.
  • Their coloration is protective.
  • They are tall with good eyesight for watchfulness.
  • Giraffes have high blood pressure (240/160) for pumping blood to the brain.
  • Herds are small and loosely constructed of 5-15 individuals, consisting of one bull with females and young. Other bulls are solitary or in pairs.
  • Giraffes usually sleep standing up.
  • Going for a month without water is also possible as an adaptation to long drought periods in their native areas.

Ecological Niche:

  • Geographic Range: Savannahs and thornbush of northeastern Africa (Somalia, Ethiopia, north and eastern Kenya)
  • Primary consumer (herbivore). A browsing ruminant that eats regularly throughout the day, the giraffe prefers young leaves and shoots at tops of acacia trees; they also consume twigs and bark.
  • They prefer to drink regularly, but can go without water for several days.
  • Giraffes can run up to 35 mph.
  • Predators are leopards (prey on young), lions, and humans.
  • Giraffes kick with their hooves and slam with their heads.
  • In the past 20 years, there has been an estimated 35% decline in wild giraffe populations. In 1998 the IUCN estimated the total number of giraffe in Africa to exceed 140,000, but by 2016, this number has dropped to fewer than 90,000 individuals. Thus far there has been limited research and conservation efforts on wild giraffe, so the extent of their conservation threats are often undetermined.
    Learn more about Giraffe Conservation.

Diet & Reproduction

Zoo Diet:

Alfalfa, natural tree browse, wild herbivore browser grain, root vegetables, lettuce, salt blocks and trace mineral blocks


  • Giraffes are non-seasonal breeders, usually producing one precocial calf after a gestation period of 14-15 months.
  • Birth height is 5½-6′; birth weight is 100-150 lbs.
  • They become sexually mature between 3 and 4 years of age.
  • Giraffes have a life span of about 25 years (30+ in captivity).
  • Full body size is not reached until age five.

Interesting Facts

Unique Characteristics:

  • The carotid artery that carries blood from the heart to the head is thick, muscular and elastic, ballooning when the giraffe stoops to absorb the increase in pressure. When the giraffe raises its head, a series of check valves in the inch-wide jugular vein prevents a sudden back flow from the emptying brain.
  • Giraffes are most vulnerable to predators when drinking or lying down.
  • They may see red-orange, yellow-green, purple, green and blue as colors.
  • Their spot patterns are as individual as fingerprints.
  • There are no known cases of giraffes swimming.
  • Giraffe’s have a variety of sounds but they are rarely heard. They may grunt or snort when alarmed; females may whistle to call their young, and calves can bleat.

Scientific Classification

Scientific Name: Giraffa camelopardalis
Class: Mammalia
Order: Artiodactyla
Family: Giraffidae

Vernacular, scientific names of the sub-species of giraffe:

Reticulated, Giraffa camelopardalis reticulata – (giraffe at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo)
Nubian, G. c. typica
Kordofan, G.c. antiquorum
Lado, G.c. cottoni
Baringo, G.c. rothschildsi
Kilimanjaro or Masai, G.c. tippelskirchi
Congo, G.c. congoensis
Angola, G.c. angolensis
Transvaal, G.c. wardi
Cape, G.c. capensis
Nigerian, G.c. peralta