The giraffe uses its height to protect itself. Since it obviously is too large to hide from its main predator, lions, the giraffe is on constant lookout for them. Some male giraffes are as tall as 18 feet, making them a ready-made observation tower. This vantage point makes the giraffe very difficult to sneak up on, especially since the giraffe has excellent vision. Combine this with an acute sense of hearing and smell, and it is no easy task to surprise a giraffe. A giraffe will rest with one eye open, watching for danger.
The giraffe's long legs serve it well when it comes to running. Giraffes have the ability to reach speeds as swift as 30 miles per hour, allowing them to outrun most predators. Biologists describe the gait of a giraffe using the term "pacing." This means the front leg of the animal and the back leg on the same side will move forward in unison as the giraffe runs, with the same thing occurring on the other side. By running from danger, the giraffe frustrates its enemies like the lion, which will often break off the chase and search for an easier meal.
When a giraffe must fight for its life with a lion, or perhaps a leopard, it is not defenseless. The same 6-foot legs that make it a rapid runner are also incredibly lethal weapons. According to the San Diego Zoo, the foot of a giraffe is as wide as a dinner plate, with a diameter of about a foot. This combination gives the giraffe a powerful way to deliver blunt force trauma to any animal by kicking it. The kick of a giraffe is frequently fatal to lions that try to attack it. The lion must somehow get past the legs to leap upon the giraffe's back and go for the kill. Most giraffes killed by lions, African wild dogs, leopards or hyenas are young calves that become separated from the group.
- Photo Credit Aeryith/Morguefile
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