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The word "animal" comes from the Latin word animale, neuter of animalis, and is derived from anima, meaning vital breath or soul. In everyday colloquial usage, the word usually refers to non-human animals. The biological definition of the word refers to all members of the Kingdom Animalia. Therefore, when the word "animal" is used in a biological context, humans are included.
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About Giraffe

Posted by WishbonE at 1:30 AM

Thursday, June 26, 2008

About Giraffe

Giraffes are the world's tallest mammals, an African even-toed ungulate mammal, the tallest of all land-living animal species, and the largest ruminant. They are fascinating animals roam the open grasslands in small groups of about half a dozen. The giraffe is related to deer and cattle, but is placed in a separate family, the Giraffidae, consisting only of the giraffe and its closest relative, the okapi. Giraffes are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Mammalia, order Artiodactyla, family Giraffidae. Giraffes can inhabit savannas, grasslands, or open woodlands. They prefer areas enriched with acacia growth. They drink large quantities of water and, as a result, they can spend long periods of time in dry, arid areas. Instead of drinking, giraffes stay hydrated by the moisture from leaves. When searching for more food they will venture into areas with denser foliage.

A giraffe's legs alone are taller than many humans—about 6 feet (1.8 meters). These long legs allow giraffes to run as fast as 35 miles (56 kilometers) an hour over short distances and cruise comfortably at 10 miles (16 kilometers) an hour over longer distances. The legs are also long and end in large hooves; the body is relatively short. The short horns are covered with skin and hair. Giraffes have large, sandy to chestnut, angular spots closely spaced on a lighter background. Males can be 4.8 to 5.5 metres (16 to 18 feet) tall and weigh up to 1,700 kilograms (3,800 pounds). The record-sized bull, shot in Kenya in 1934, was 5.87 m (19.2 ft) tall and weighed approximately 2,000 kg (4,400 lb). Females are generally slightly shorter, and weigh less than the males do.

Giraffes have small "horns" or knobs on top of their heads that grow to be about five inches long. These knobs are used to protect the head in fights. 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 necking in combat. Males sometimes develop calcium deposits which form bumps on their skull as they age, which can give the appearance of up to three further horns.

Giraffes use their height to good advantage and browse on leaves and buds in treetops that few other animals can reach (acacias are a favorite). Even the giraffe's tongue is long! The 21-inch (53-centimeter) tongue helps them pluck tasty morsels from branches. Giraffes eat most of the time and, like cows, regurgitate food and chew it as cud. A giraffe eats hundreds of pounds of leaves each week and must travel miles to find enough food. The giraffe's height also helps it to keep a sharp lookout for predators across the wide expanse of the African savanna. The giraffe's stature can be a disadvantage as well—it is difficult and dangerous for a giraffe to drink at a water hole. To do so they must spread their legs and bend down in an awkward position that makes them vulnerable to predators like Africa's big cats. Giraffes only need to drink once every several days; they get most of their water from the luscious plants they eat.

Female giraffes give birth standing up. Their young endure a rather rude welcome into the world by falling more than 5 feet (1.5 meters) to the ground at birth. These infants can stand in half an hour and run with their mothers an incredible ten hours after birth. Giraffe gestation lasts between 14 and 15 months, after which a single calf is born. Newborn giraffes are about 1.8 m (6 ft) 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. The young can fall prey to lions, leopards, spotted hyenas, and wild dogs. It has been speculated that their characteristic spotted pattern provides a certain degree of camouflage. Only 25 to 50% of giraffe calves reach adulthood; the life expectancy is between 20 and 25 years in the wild and 28 years in captivity.

Giraffes are hunted for their meat, coat and tails. The tail is prized for good luck bracelets, fly whisks and string for sewing beads. The coat is used for shield coverings. Habitat destruction and fragmentation are also threats to giraffe populations.

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