How Fast Can a Giraffe Run?



Giraffes are rarely seen running at full speed across the savanna, but with their lean bodies standing around 19ft tall, how fast can a giraffe run if they need to?

Giraffes can run at a speed of up to 37mph (approximately 60kph). They’re one of the fastest land animals in the world, but you wouldn’t think that if you saw them leisurely munching on some Acacia trees.

With interesting anatomy, there is a lot that goes into a Giraffe running, and in this article, we’ll explore why they run, how long they can run for, and the peculiar way they move at pace.

How fast can a giraffe run?

Top speed of a Giraffe

At 6ft long, a giraffe’s legs are often taller than most people are high. While they may look skinny, their legs must be strong enough to carry the weight of their 2,600-4,200 pound frame.

With this much power, it’s no surprise that a giraffe can reach a top running speed of 37mph (60kph) when needed.

When they aren’t galloping away from hungry predators like lions, giraffes generally stroll at a leisurely walking pace of 10mph (16kph).

How Long Can a Giraffe Run For?

A giraffe’s running speed is only attainable for short distances, as their long necks and windpipes make it so that they run out of breath fairly quickly.

Their standard cruising speed of 10mph is more sustainable and can be maintained over long distances on the African plains.

How Do Giraffes Run?

Giraffes have an interesting way of moving called “Pacing”. Pacing is an unusual gait in which both the front and back legs on one side move forward simultaneously, followed by the other two legs on the opposite side moving forward in unison.

Giraffes have the same “pacing” gait when they are walking as well as when they are running. When they are running, they just go through the motion faster. Some other animals that walk with a “pace” pattern are bears, camels, and elephants.

Giraffe pacing across savannah

Giraffes have the longest stride in the animal kingdom combined with their loping walking style. They can often appear to be moving in slow motion across the Savannah.

Giraffes rarely run, but when they do, they serve as a warning sign to other Savanah wildlife that danger is near.

Usually, you can find them casually strolling across the plains or eating leaves from their favorite tree, the Acacia.

Why Do Giraffes Run?

Giraffes run for the same reasons humans run, usually to escape danger. While crocodiles also hunt giraffes, the lion is their primary predator on land and often the primary reason for sprinting.

A lion can reach top speeds of 50mph, so a giraffe is often unable to outrun them, leaving it no choice but to fight back. The lion’s tactic for hunting giraffes is to try and knock the animal off its feet and then pull it down to the ground.

It’s risky business for the lion as the giraffe’s kick packs a potent punch. One kick from an adult giraffe can shatter a lion’s skull, effectively killing it. 

In addition to Lions, another threat the giraffe faces are humans. Poaching, habitat loss, and climate change are consistent and detrimental threats to the world’s tallest animal, and their population has been cut by 40% in the last 30 years.

While the giraffe is not officially classified as an endangered species, it is considered at high risk of extinction by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)

Final thoughts on how fast giraffes can run

With legs the length of a whole human, it’s no surprise that the tallest animal on Earth has the power and stride to reach a top speed of 37mph (60kph).

While the giraffe rarely needs to kick it into high gear, it’s paramount that they have the running capabilities to compete with such speedy predators as the African Lion.

Usually, you will find the giraffe strolling the savannah at a leisurely 10 mph (16km/hr) in search of food, a mate, or simply a shady spot to nap.

giraffe walking across the african savannah


Would a Giraffe Beat Usain Bolt in a Sprint?

Yes, a Giraffe would leave Usain Bolt in the dust. While Usain may be the fastest human on earth, his speed of 27.33 mph (43.99 kph) is no match for a giraffe’s top speed of 37mph (60km/hr).
I’d still pay to watch that race, though.

Can Giraffes Swim?

Yes, giraffes can swim, but just because they can doesnt mean they are very good at it.
While they don’t often find themselves going for leisurely dips in the Nile, they sometimes have to cross rivers on their migratory journeys across the plains.
Suffice it to say, being 20ft tall in most African rivers. They can just walk along the bottom. They’ve just gotta be careful of crocs! 

Are There Different Types of Giraffes?

There are four different species of giraffe. They are as follows; the Masai giraffe, Northern giraffe, Reticulated giraffe, and Southern giraffe.
Although there are four different species, all four share the same top speed and basic anatomy.

Can You Ride a Giraffe?

While riding a giraffe may be physically possible, you should not. It is not healthy for the giraffe, and a fall due to the awkward sitting position can be very dangerous.

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