The tallest of all modern land animals, the giraffe is also one of the most striking in appearance, with a knobby, big-eyed head soaring atop a long neck, a humpbacked body balanced on long, spindly legs, and a hide painted with intricate blotches. Although they may look ungainly, giraffes -- denizens of open woodlands and savannas in Africa -- nonetheless can “hoof” it; their top speed exceeds 50 kilometers per hour (31 mph).
Gaits of the Giraffe
Giraffes either amble or gallop. When ambling, the fore and hind limbs on the same side of the body move in concert. When galloping, however, the front legs advance together and the hind legs splay out to touch down outside and in front of the fore hooves.
Speed and Endurance
Although a languid stroll is the giraffe’s preferred pace, they are certainly not weak runners. They possess considerable endurance, and are able to maintain a rolling gallop of 16 kilometers per hour (10 mph) over extended distances. The animal's maximum speed is a respectable 60 kilometers per hour (37 mph).
Running as Evasion
Adult giraffes are rarely troubled by predators -- save for lions, which will occasionally attempt to take down even big bulls. Although an adult giraffe may flee from a pride of lions, it can also stand its ground and kick at its attackers with potentially lethal hooves. Giraffe calves, however, are much more vulnerable to a variety of carnivores. They rely on camouflage, their mothers and impressive bursts of speed to stay alive.
- The Behavior Guide to African Mammals; Richard D. Estes
- National Geographic: Giraffe
- Walker's Mammals of the World Vol. 1; Ronald M. Nowak (ed.)
- Photo Credit Nico Smit/iStock/Getty Images
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