giraffe


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giraffe,

African ruminant mammal, genus Giraffa, living in open savanna S of the Sahara. Giraffes have historically been considered to be one species, G. camelopardalis, with a number of subspecies, but DNA study now suggests that there are in fact four giraffe species, the southern giraffe, the Masai giraffe, the reticulated giraffe, and the northern giraffe, and that the southern and northern giraffes have subspecies. The tallest of animals, giraffes browse in treetops at heights inaccessible to other leaf-eaters. A male may be 18 ft (5.5 m) from hoof to crown. The neck, which is up to 7 ft (2.1 m) long, has only seven vertebrae, the usual number in mammals, but each is very elongated. The legs are also long and end in large hooves; the body is relatively short. The short hornlike ossicones are formed of ossified cartilage and covered with skin and hair. Giraffes have large, sandy to chestnut, angular spots closely spaced on a lighter background. They feed chiefly on leaves of acacia and mimosa, using their extensible tongues and mobile lips to secure food. Giraffes travel in small herds whose membership typically readily changes; females can form long-lasting relationship with each other. They can outrun most of their enemies and have been known to kill lions with a kick. They are most vulnerable when spreading their forelegs and lowering their heads to drink; however, they can do without water for long intervals. They are among the very few mammals that cannot swim at all. Females bear a single calf, which is about 6 ft (180 cm) tall at birth. The only other member of the giraffe family is the okapiokapi
, nocturnal ruminant mammal, Okapia johnstoni, of the giraffe family. It inhabits the almost sunless rain forests of the upper Congo and feeds on leaves. Its shape is reminiscent of a giraffe's, but it is smaller, with a much shorter neck.
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. Giraffes are classified in the phylum ChordataChordata
, phylum of animals having a notochord, or dorsal stiffening rod, as the chief internal skeletal support at some stage of their development. Most chordates are vertebrates (animals with backbones), but the phylum also includes some small marine invertebrate animals.
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, subphylum Vertebrata, class Mammalia, order Artiodactyla, family Giraffidae.

giraffe

[jə′raf]
(vertebrate zoology)
Giraffa camelopardalis. An artiodactyl mammal in the family Giraffidae characterized by extreme elongation of the neck vertebrae, and two prominent horns on the head.

Giraffe

[jə′raf]
(astronomy)

giraffe

tallest of animals. [Zoology: NCE, 1088]

giraffe

a large ruminant mammal, Giraffa camelopardalis, inhabiting savannas of tropical Africa: the tallest mammal, with very long legs and neck and a colouring of regular reddish-brown patches on a beige ground: family Giraffidae
References in classic literature ?
At night I dream of all the animals, one by one--the giraffe, the two dromedaries, the young lion, the alligator, and Alexander.
Really he was a bad one, but whenever he missed we overlooked it for the sake of that giraffe.
By the time the "scherm" was finished the moon peeped up, and our dinners of giraffe steaks and roasted marrow-bones were ready.
Smith, two others, the hippopotamus, the giraffe, the bos caffer -- as large as a full-grown bull, and the elan -- but little less, two zebras, and the quaccha, two gnus, and several antelopes even larger than these latter animals.
If we take on the one side, the elephant, [7] hippopotamus, giraffe, bos caffer, elan, certainly three, and probably five species of rhinoceros; and on the American side, two tapirs, the guanaco, three deer, the vicuna, peccari, capybara (after which we must choose from the monkeys to complete the number), and then place these two groups alongside each other, it is not easy to conceive ranks more disproportionate in size.
She received her mixed and decorous guests with a kind of tall, ponderous grace, peculiarly her own and which awakened in the mind of intimidated strangers incongruous and improper reminiscences of an elephant, a giraffe, a gazelle; of a gothic tower--of an overgrown angel.
The air was dark with Davises, and many Jones gamboled like a flock of young giraffes.
Then the Doctor was very happy; for all the lions and the leopards and the antelopes and the giraffes and the zebras--all the animals of the forests and the mountains and the plains --came to help him in his work.
Like the others, it was high enough for a family of giraffes to live in, and was very handsome and clean and bright-colored within.
Those giraffes," roared Joe; "why, they're not as big as my fist.
He saw her against a background of pale grottos and sleek hides; camels slanted their heavy-ridded eyes at her, giraffes fastidiously observed her from their melancholy eminence, and the pink-lined trunks of elephants cautiously abstracted buns from her outstretched hands.
How long, pray, would a man hunt giraffes if he could?