Giraffes, both adults and babies, are some of the most majestic creatures on the planet with their incredible height and beautiful patterns.
Baby giraffes are called calves and are born weighing up to 150 pounds. They’re around 6 feet tall from day one and tend to stay close to their mothers for at least 18 months.
In this article, we’ll explore ten fascinating facts about baby giraffes, from birth to early life and beyond.
- 1. Long pregnancy
- 2. Giraffes give birth standing up
- 3. Miniature version of their mom
- 4. Ossicones are flat at birth
- 5. How much giraffe calves grow in their first year?
- 6. How long do they stay with their mothers?
- 7. Taken care of by their mothers
- 8. Diet of giraffe calves
- 9. How long do baby giraffes sleep?
- 10. Sexual Maturity
- 11. Low survival chances in the wild
- Final thoughts on baby giraffes
1. Long pregnancy
Giraffes are pregnant for 453 to 464 days, around 15 months. Giraffes have one of the longest gestation periods among all animals, taking almost half a year longer than humans.
Like humans, the giraffe will have one calf at a time, but twins are also sometimes seen.
After birth, it usually takes around a year and a half before the mother giraffe can become pregnant again.
2. Giraffes give birth standing up
Like cows and horses, giraffes give birth to their calves standing up. Baby giraffes travel down the birth canal feet first.
The mother giraffe’s labor lasts only a few minutes, after which the calf is born. As giraffes are so tall, baby giraffes must withstand a five to six-foot drop when they are born.
There haven’t been any records of a baby passing away from this, and the fall can help them start breathing.
3. Miniature version of their mom
Baby giraffes look like a tiny version of their mothers with their wide open eyes and glorious lashes.
Standing around 6 feet tall and weighing approximately 150 pounds, they already appear like full-grown giraffes, just in miniature form.
Even though they may look similar, each giraffe has a unique pattern of spots, and their short, thick fur comes in different shades of cream and brown.
4. Ossicones are flat at birth
The ossicones of a giraffe (the little horns on their heads) are flat and are not attached to their skulls when giraffes are born.
This is an evolutionary safety measure that is designed to protect both the mother and the baby giraffe.
Giving birth to a child with ossicones sticking out of their head would be dangerous to both the mother and the child. As they grow older, the horns attach to the skull.
Male and female giraffes usually have different ossicones. Male giraffes generally have thicker ossicones and become bald quickly; this is usually an easy way to tell males and females apart from a distance.
5. How much giraffe calves grow in their first year?
After their first week of life, baby giraffes will grow around .98 inches daily. Giraffe calves will double in size after their first year.
By year four, giraffes will have reached their full height but will continue gaining weight until year eight.
Fully grown males can weigh up to 4,250 pounds (1,930 kg), and females can weigh up to 1,800 pounds (820 kg).
6. How long do they stay with their mothers?
Baby giraffes will stay with their mothers until they’re between 18 months and two years old, with the females staying for a longer period.
Males usually join other herds of males in their adolescence, but females will remain with the familiar herd near their mother.
7. Taken care of by their mothers
Primarily, baby giraffes will be cared for by their mothers, learning how to eat and tend to themselves. The mother giraffe will also keep the baby clean and safe.
Together they travel in groups of giraffes that total between 10 and 20 giraffes, but groups of up to 50 have been spotted in the wild.
Females in the group rely on each other to watch over their babies if they stray from the herd to attend to other matters. This is called a creche but think of it as a daycare for giraffes.
Giraffe bulls usually have no part in raising babies, but they keep an eye on babies in the herd so they can eat and drink at leisure.
Males will also defend the herd against predators.
8. Diet of giraffe calves
Baby giraffes nurse for around a year, but when they’re about four months old, they start to expand their tastes and indulge in the leaves of the acacia tree.
Though these trees have thorns, the giraffe can reach around them with their long tongue, and its saliva will protect it if minor cuts occur.
If the baby giraffe can’t reach the leaves yet, the mother will pull some leaves off for them to eat. Giraffes can spend up to 18 hours a day eating.
Giraffes will also eat the tree’s flowers when in season, as they are packed with protein.
Because the acacia leaves contain a lot of water, giraffes don’t have to worry about drinking as much as other animals.
They tend to drink in large groups, which makes them less vulnerable. While they can go very long without water, they can consume up to 12 gallons in one go when there is a supply.
9. How long do baby giraffes sleep?
Young calves will spend roughly one-quarter of their time sleeping, which isn’t a lot if you compare it to puppies, who spend well over three-quarters of their day asleep.
Baby giraffes sleep lying down, with their heads resting behind them, while the mother giraffe and the other adults in the herd keep watch.
While giraffe calves don’t seem to sleep much, giraffes, in general, sleep for only a few minutes a day as it makes them too vulnerable. Often little cat naps standing up do the trick.
10. Sexual Maturity
Males will reach maturity between six and eight years of age but will often wait longer to mate.
Groups of males will travel great distances to find females receptive to mating.
Female giraffes reach sexual maturity between four and five years of age, though they may not mate until they are six or seven and observe their mother on how to care for their young.
11. Low survival chances in the wild
Sadly close to 75 percent of calves in the wild do not reach adulthood. This is a very low survival rate.
Unfortunately, baby giraffes are easy prey for other animals, and because they sleep lying down, they leave themselves susceptible to predators.
Final thoughts on baby giraffes
Giraffe calves are adorable and, after a gestation period of 15 months, will stay close to their mother for up to two years.
Giraffes are herbivores and eat mostly leaves, which they can reach using long tongues. Baby giraffes sleep for around one-quarter of the day and will start eating solid food at four months old.
Males reach sexual maturity between six and eight years old but often wait longer to mate. Unfortunately, nearly 75 percent of calves in the wild do not reach adulthood due to predation.