Some of us have the great pleasure of feeling short most of the time. I’ve met 3 year olds who are taller than I am. (Fortunately, I have a big personality to make up for my lack of actual stature.)
Some of us have the great pleasure of feeling tall most of the time. I imagine that people like LeBron and Shaq don’t often look up (literally speaking) to see other people’s faces.
But even those who play bball well enough to go by their first name alone are dwarfed by giraffes.
Giraffes are tall. As in really tall. As in the tallest mammal in the world. They are the gangly teenage growth spurt of the animal kingdom.
Not only are they tall, they stand most of the time. When you’re that tall, you flaunt it. You don’t even bother with high heels. Not that most manufactures make shoes big enough for giraffes (the diameter of their feet is 30 centimeters on average—that’s bigger than yours).
Giraffes sleep standing up and they don’t sleep much. They sleep less than college students during finals week, needing between 10 minutes (yes, you read that right) and two hours a day of sleep.
Giraffes are peaceful animals. When you only get 10 minutes sleep a day for your entire life, you probably just don’t care enough to fight with anyone else.
Giraffes don’t sleep much because they spend their time eating. A lot. And (a la moo) they chew their cud.
Like snowflakes, fingerprints, and zebra butts, no two giraffes have exactly the same spot print. (You knew that.) Some zoologists think their patterns are for camouflage. Clearly, these people know nothing about fashion; who wears the same thing as someone else? It’s just awkward.
Speaking of awkward (have you ever really looked at how that word is spelled? Even its letter arrangement is, wait for it, awkward), a giraffe’s neck is too short to reach the ground. So in a gangly, awkward, ridiculously vulnerable move, giraffes have to spread their front legs or kneel to reach the ground for a drink of water. This leads to many arguments between young giraffes and their parents about being sufficiently hydrated and watching for lions while drinking.
This part is really cool: because the giraffe is so tall (I believe I mentioned that part), when it lowers its head to drink it is moving about six and a half miles down-altitude. To protect its brain from crazy changes in blood pressure, it has valves to stop the back-flow of blood and elastic-y vessels that dilate and constrict to manage blood flow. NASA has done research on giraffe blood vessels (the better to build human space suits).
Being as how giraffes shop in the Big and Tall sections, they have hearts suitable for their big and Tall bodies. A giraffe heart weighs approximately 11 kilograms (even bigger than the Grinch’s post-expansion heart) which is used to pump 60 liters of blood around its body every minute at a blood pressure twice that of an average human.
The horny things on giraffe heads are called ossicones. They are unattached at birth so they can don’t injure the mama giraffe (for which the mama giraffes are most grateful). Later in life the ossicones fuse to the giraffe’s skull.
There are many subspecies of giraffe (zoologists care. The rest of us, not so much), and giraffes are already extinct in at least 7 countries in Africa. We should all care about that. A lot.
Hug a giraffe today.