Giraffes are the tallest animals in the world, and they mostly live in Sub-Saharan Africa. These herbivore animals mostly consume leaves and buds. However, they won’t refuse the pleasure of eating flowers and fruit when they are in season. But if you ‘ask’ a giraffe about its favorite food, it will ‘tell’ you that it’s either the leaves of acacia or the ones of the mimosa tree.
Now, as a subcategory to the herbivore family, giraffes fall in the category of even-toed ungulates, along with deers, sheep, or cattle.
Due to their robust body, giraffes weigh around 3,000 pounds, making them the eighth heaviest land mammals. It is impossible not to recognize giraffes, mainly because of their height and dot body patterns. Also known as spots, these characteristic brown patches have the purpose of camouflaging the animals and are possible thanks to a complex blood vessel system.
But let’s return to the food part, which is the day’s topic. Because they are massive creatures and require a lot of food, giraffes will continuously look to eat.
This being said, let’s understand the giraffes’ diet and digestion particularities and discover their favorite food.
What Does A Giraffe’s Diet Include?
Here is what giraffes’ diet includes:
- Acacia trees (their primary food source)
- Mimosa trees
The acacia leaves are by far their most favorite food type. However, giraffes will also eat other plants, like bush willows or mimosa. Although they can consume lots of different plants and flowers, the diet of giraffes is affected by what food is available at any given time.
In other words, giraffes have a different menu based on the season. Therefore, during the rainy months, giraffes will look for deciduous trees, shrubs, or vines, while during the dry season, they will gather around the evergreen trees to feed themselves. The reason for that is simple – due to the lack of rain, fresh plants are not available, so they have to adjust their diet.
Giraffes will also snack on the occasional fruits during their seasons. When they feel stressed, giraffes will start eating even the bark off of branches. Unfortunately, this behavior is not beneficial to the trees. In time, the acacia managed to evolve, and now they have vicious thorns. But truth be told, these thorns aren’t a very big obstacle for the extremely long tongues giraffes have. Yes, they can’t eat the acacia bark, but they very easily find their way to the leaves.
What Will Giraffes Eat When They Are In The Wild?
Yes, Acacia nilotica is a giraffes’ favorite food. When they are in their natural habitat, giraffes will eat plants they can easily find or reach. Sometimes, they will be happy with eating some grass too. Yet, the process of eating short grass from the ground will be a bit tricky for these very tall creatures.
As such, these animals will have to either bend at the knee or simply splay their long front legs wide apart, so that they can reach food from the ground.
How Much Does A Giraffe Eat?
Due to their colossal size and weight, you can expect giraffes to eat a lot, right? As such, an adult giraffe will eat up to 75 pounds or 34 kilograms per day. Although this quantity might sound like a lot, we need to consider the average weight.
A male giraffe weighs 2,628 pounds (1,192 kilograms), while a female weighs around 1,825 pounds (827 kilograms). While it may sound like a lot of food, don’t eat as much as other herbivores, considering their size. The reason? An effective digestive system that helps them extract the proper amount of nutrients from their food.
Giraffe Adaptations For Foraging
The body of a giraffe comes with lots of features that help them reach and eat foods of all kinds.
- The Mouth And Tongue
The powerful mouth, as well as the tall height, are a giraffes’ superpowers. Giraffes have this long prehensile tongue and lips that won’t be affected by thorny branches other herbivores might not be able to eat.
Usually, most of the trees and shrubs of African acacias will be very sharp. However, a giraffe’s tongue is perfectly adapted to hold the leaves without causing any hurt. With their 45 cm long prehensile muscle with small papillae, as well as the mouth itself, giraffes can cushion spiny elements of trees and shrubs. Furthermore, the thick saliva that covers the spines is essential for swallowing without causing any damage to the internal organs.
But how do giraffes succeed in eating even the prickly branches and leaves? Well, it’s kind of easy to understand, actually. The animals strip the leaves from limbs, and they take just a tiny part of the branch within the mouth. Next, they pull their heads back in such a way to allow their lips and tongues to rip the leaves apart.
- The Rumination
Giraffes are ruminant animals. Their stomach comes with four chambers, making the digestive process different from the other mammals. The whole eating process is particular. So first of all, the giraffes will start by chewing the food for some time, then swallow it.
The next step is regurgitating all the food back in their mouth so that they can chew it once again. Giraffes may repeat this process right before they move to consume another food. The rumination action can be pretty lengthy, so a lot of the giraffes’ day consists of feeding.
Why Do Giraffes Prefer Acacia Leaves?
Giraffes love Acacia leaves, as these trees are very high in protein and calcium, some nutrients and vitamins a giraffe’s huge body needs. Moreover, these trees have many other attractive properties for these tall animals.
Acacia trees can grow high, a true advantage for the giraffe. The tall creatures will have no competition for their food, as no other animal can reach these leaves.
Do Giraffes Cause Damage While Eating?
Trees are the most common food that giraffes are frequenting. For instance, giraffes are not as destructive as elephants when it comes to feeding habits. While the giraffes are nibbling the trees, they can even produce positive results for these plants.
It is like you are cutting back a plant in your garden to help it develop new healthy sprouts. When a giraffe is full, the tree will start producing new growth. Furthermore, giraffes are helping in seed distribution and pollination as well.
You should not be worried about trees. These plants have a clever system that helps them avoid being overeaten by giraffes. Everything in nature is strongly connected at levels that we can’t even start to think about. For instance, there is a species of ants that have a symbiotic relationship with the acacia trees. So how does this work? Well, the tree provides shelter and food for the ants, and in return, the ants make sure that the herbivores don’t eat only from one branch and create damage to the tree.
Do Giraffes Consume Meat?
Although this happens rarely, if a giraffe cannot get its essential nutrients, it will have to look elsewhere.
However, giraffes are not hunters. Yet, on very rare occasions, they have been seen liking the meat of some dead carcasses. They would usually avoid doing this, mainly because of their hard work in eating from the ground.
Imagine their neck, which can be 6 feet long, touching the ground. It is almost impossible. So if giraffes want to eat something from the ground, they would need to shuffle down by spreading their feet apart. Doing this will make giraffes genuinely vulnerable in front of their predators.
Yet, if the situation requires it, they will search for small bones to chew for minerals.
What Do Baby Giraffes Eat?
New-born giraffes are around 6 feet tall at the time of their birth. This allows them to feed with their mother’s milk as food, starting from the first hour of their life.
Calves have a muscular structure at the lower end of the esophagus known as the esophageal grooves. This structure will enable milk to bypass the first stomach area and enter the second part.
When they reach the age of four months, baby giraffes will start eating solid food. Their stomach will slowly adapt to change and, finally, their ruminating habit.
What do Giraffes Eat In Zoos?
Giraffes’ menu can vary from a zoo to another. However, their food needs to provide them with the exact nutrients in the natural environment.
The usual diet for giraffes includes fresh acacia leaves placed in artificial trees to imitate the natural habitat. Giraffes will also eat special biscuits, carrots, and fruits along the trees.
Interesting Facts About Giraffes
- Giraffes are ruminants, so their stomachs are similar to a cow’s. This means they will throw up all the food and eat it once more, as explained earlier.
- Giraffes have these particular muscles right around their neck, which helps them regurgitate.
- These tall animals have a stomach with four
- Giraffes have 21.3 meters of intestines.
- The poop of giraffes has the shape of pellets.
Last but not least
Giraffes are amazing creatures that don’t cease to amaze with their insides and exterior aspect. Due to their extremely long tongue and powerful lips, giraffes can easily feed themselves even though some trees have evolved and grown defensive thorns.
But there are so many more fascinating facts about these creatures, as you’ve discovered in this article. What was your favorite piece of information?
to explain this part is really scientific. do you want something like this? – In the rumen, the central organ of foregut fermentation of large herbivores, microorganisms ferment fibers and produce along with several other metabolites volatile fatty acids