Episode 72 – West African Giraffe: A Tall Horse

“And today we are talking about one of the biggest animal celebrities. I’m a little star struck already.”

Striding across the blazing Serengeti, the towering, wiry frame of the giraffe moves with surprising grace as it searches-for food. As the tallest mammal in the world, the giraffe makes for an easy target for large African predators. This not-so-gentle giant must remain ever vigilant if it hopes to survive here in Life, Death, and Taxonomy.


  • The WAG is a rare subspecies of giraffe that’s identified by its lighter brown spots.
  • Their signature, cartoon alien head bumps are called ossicones, which are separate from horns and antlers.
    • They start out as cartilage and then harden and calcify to become bone.
  • Every part of them is lanky. They have long tongues, necks, and legs with which they can reach tall trees to eat foliage.

WAGs can only be found in Niger, but they were once all over the savannah.

  • The population was brought back from near extinction through conservation but they remain vulnerable with around 600 left in the wild.
  • WAGs live in heards of around 15 members.

Measure Up

Height – 6 meters (19 feet) – How many rhabdomys lengths (a small african striped mouse) go into the height of a WAG? – Hint: There are about the same amount of calories in a mouse as there are in a McDonald’s chicken nugget. Answer: 15 mice

Weight – 1,300 kilos (2,866 pounds) – How many Montannah Kenneys (a climber that reached the summit of kilimanjaro) would go into the weight of a WAG, at her approximate weight (47 pounds) when she reached the summit? Hint: Kenney is from Austin, Texas and she broke the record of Floridian Roxy Getter as the youngest person to reach the summit. Answer: 61 Montannah Kenneys.

Fast Facts

  • They are the tallest land animal on earth, but they aren’t the heaviest. That goes to elephants.
  • The can sprint 35 mph over a short distance but they can jog at 10 mph for long distances.
  • They spread their legs to drink water because, as long as their necks are, they are too short to reach ground level.
  • They get most of their water from plants and only need to drink once every few days.
  • Once a giraffe stands up for the first time, they will spend most of their life standing even to sleep and give birth.
  • Calves are most vulnerable within the first few months to predation. Mothers will protect them with powerful kicks, but many are killed by african wild dogs, hyenas, leopards, and lions.
  • Male giraffes will fight with their ossicones but whipping their heads at other males. The force is strong enough to break bones.
  • Giraffes make typical bellows and bleats but they can also make sounds lower than a human ear can hear.