Giraffes are the tallest land animal, but how tall do you need to be to earn that title?
Giraffes can be as tall as 19 feet (or 5.8 meters), which would be higher than three full-grown adult humans standing on each other’s shoulders. Baby giraffes are also taller than the average person, usually standing six feet tall at birth.
There are different types of giraffes, and different factors can influence how tall a giraffe is, like their gender and diet. So, read on to learn more.
How tall are different types of giraffes?
Generally speaking, there are four types of giraffes (four species), the Northern, Southern, Masai, and Reticulated giraffe.
I say “generally speaking” as this is a fairly new classification, with some organizations only recognizing one species and dividing it into nine subspecies.
We’re going to go with the latest findings, which is the four species model, so how tall are these different giraffes then?
- Northern giraffe bulls can grow to 18.8 feet (5.7 meters), which is also the height of the tallest living giraffe, according to Guinness World Records (a Rothschild’s giraffe in an Australian zoo) named Forest.
- Southern giraffes males generally reach 16-18 feet (5-5.5 meters).
- Masai giraffes are the biggest and tallest giraffe species, with some bulls known to reach 19 feet (5.8 meters). The tallest known giraffe was Chester, a 20-foot Masai Giraffe.
- Male Reticulated giraffes generally reach 16-18 feet (5-5.5 meters).
These are the heights of male giraffes. Female giraffes across the various types tend to max out at around 14 feet (4.3 meters).
How tall are baby giraffes?
Compared to other land animals, baby giraffes are also the tallest babies in the world when they are first born, almost twice as tall as a baby elephant.
A newborn giraffe can be up to six feet tall when born, around 1.8 meters, taller than most adult humans.
Baby giraffes grow quickly. They do most of their growing in the first few years of their lives. They become adults and reach their full height by the time they are four years old.
How long are a giraffe’s legs?
A giraffe’s legs are around six feet long (1.8 meters). This allows them to run up to speeds of 37 mph (60 kph) even though they don’t seem particularly fast.
Giraffes are heavy creatures, and their legs grow thick and muscular because they have to hold up the weight of the giraffe’s body. Their legs are also the main tool for self-defense against predators.
Because their legs are so long and strong, giraffes can easily kill predators by delivering a single kick to the head. This is why healthy giraffes are rarely directly attacked by lions. It’s easier for the lions to find other sources of food.
Even if predators resort to attacking giraffes, the fear of a deadly giraffe kick forces them to slowly stalk the giraffes looking for young and weaker members of the giraffe group.
Giraffes also have great eyesight, and their long legs make it easy for them to run away quickly when they see a carnivore coming to get them.
How long is a giraffe’s neck?
Giraffes have enormous necks. These ultra-long necks are around 6 feet (1.8 meters) and are supported by seven long vertebrae with flexible joints separating them.
Without this skeletal support, the giraffe’s neck would be too long and heavy to use.
As giraffes evolved, the veins in their necks developed a complex system of valves to prevent blood from flowing backward when they dipped their head to drink.
This is one of the many unique features of giraffes that only exist because they are such tall animals.
Why are giraffes so tall?
Like all other species on earth, giraffes have evolved to fit their environment. The primary scientific theory about their evolution is that they evolved to take advantage of the fruit and vegetation on the highest branches of trees, which was out of reach of most of the other animals.
This is not the only advantage of being so tall, though.
Combined with their incredible eyesight, a giraffe’s height makes it easy for them to keep an eye out for predators. If a giraffe does not see a predator in time, its height gives the giraffe several different ways that it can defend itself in a fight.
They are so tall partly because of their massive legs. Giraffes can use these legs to deliver deadly kicks that can take down a charging lion in one blow. Giraffes can also swing their necks around like clubs to bash opponents with their heads.
This is especially common when giraffes are fighting each other. When giraffes fight, the one with the longer neck is usually the winner. This means that they have the chance to pass their genes along, and the species continues to maintain their impressive height.
There are, of course, also quite a few downsides to being so tall, one of which is that they sleep mostly standing up as a position closer to the ground leaves them more vulnerable. Also, with such a long neck, it can take quite a while for them to throw up if needed.
Final thoughts on the height of giraffes
Giraffes are the tallest land animals on earth. They are so tall that three adult humans standing on each other would still be shorter than the average adult giraffe.
Even baby giraffes are taller than the average adult human.