Relatives of the Giraffe

No two giraffes have the same spots.
No two giraffes have the same spots. (Image: giraffe image by hugy from

According to, giraffes are the tallest mammals. Each giraffe has its own unique spot pattern on its coat, similar to our unique finger prints. They live in Africa in groups of about six and roam the savanna in search of food and water. Their favorite food is acacia tree leaves and buds. They use their specialized tongue, which is 21 inches long, to avoid the thorns and reach the tasty leaves and buds. Giraffes have a ruminating four-chambered stomach that allows them to regurgitate their food and chew the cud just like domestic cows do. They eat most of the time and consume hundreds of pounds of leaves each week.

Only Living Relative

The okapi has a similar body shape to the giraffe but with a shorter neck. It shares the same specialized teeth and tongue, plus a ruminating four-chambered stomach for chewing cud. Male okapi also share fur-covered horns similar to those found on the giraffe. The okapi lives in the Democratic Republic of Congo. It received its nickname of "rain forest zebra" because of its striped rump and legs.

Okapi are the only living relatives of the giraffe.
Okapi are the only living relatives of the giraffe. (Image: Okapi - Secret Garden image by Daniel Mortell from


Giraffidae is the scientific family name for medium to large ruminants (forage eaters that chew cud). The most distinctive feature of these animals are ossicones. Ossicones are horn-like structures made of bone covered with skin and hair. True horns are covered in keratin. The now extinct ancestors of giraffes are Palaeotraginae and Sivatheriinae. Giraffe ancestors existed in the Miocene era in Africa. Palaeotraginae had sharp antlers that pointed outward and looked similar to deer. It became extinct in the Pliocene era. Sivatheriinae had chubby antlers and looked similar to a bulky horse. It became extinct during or shortly after the Pleistocence era.


According to, there are nine accepted subspecies of giraffe in the scientific community. Each subspecies is differentiated by color, coat pattern and range of habitat. The Somali Giraffe has liver-colored spots outlined with white lines. It lives in northeastern Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia. The Smoky Giraffe has large spots with some notches around the edges. It lives in Angola and Zambia. The Kordofan Giraffe has smaller irregular spots. It lives in western and southwestern Sudan. The Masai or Kilimanjaro Giraffe has dark chocolate-colored jagged spots with a yellowish background. It lives in central and southern Kenya and Tanzania. The Nubian Giraffe has chestnut brown four-sided spots with an off-white background. It lives in eastern Sudan and northeast Congo. The Rothschild's or Baringo or Ugandan Giraffe has deep brown blotchy spots with cream lines that can be hard to see. It lives in Uganda and north-central Kenya. The South African Giraffe has star-shaped spots on a light tan background. It lives in South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique. The Thornicroft or Rhodesian Giraffe has leafy-shaped spots. It lives in eastern Zambia. The West African or Nigerian Giraffe has yellowish red spots. It lives in Chad.

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