The giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis) is an African even-toed ungulate mammal, the tallest living terrestrial animal and the largest ruminant. Its specific name refers to its camel-like face and and the patches of color on its fur, which bear a vague resemblance to a leopard's spots. The giraffe is noted for its extremely long neck and legs, as well as its horn-like ossicones. It stands 5–6 m (16–20 ft) tall and has an average weight of 1,600 kg (3,500 lb) for males and 830 kg (1,800 lb) for females. It is classified under the family Giraffidae, along with its closest extant relative, the okapi. There are nine subspecies, which are distinguished by their coat patterns.
The giraffe's scattered range extends from Chad in the north to South Africa in the south, and from Niger in the west to Somalia in the east. Giraffes usually inhabit savannas, grasslands, and open woodlands. Their primary food source is acacia leaves, which they can browse at heights that most other herbivores cannot reach. Giraffes are preyed on by lions, and calves are also targeted by leopards, spotted hyenas and wild dogs. Adult giraffes do not have strong social bonds, though they do gather in loose aggregations if they happen to be moving in the same general direction. Males establish social hierarchies through "necking", which are combat bouts where the neck is used as a weapon. Dominant males gain mating access to females, who bear the sole responsibility for raising the young.
The giraffe has intrigued various cultures, both ancient and modern, for its peculiar appearance, and has often been featured in paintings, books and cartoons. It is classified by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as Least Concern, but has been extirpated from many parts of its former range, and some subspecies are classified as Endangered. Nevertheless, giraffes are still found in numerous game reserves.
Giraffes usually inhabit savannas, grasslands and open woodlands. They prefer Acacia, Commiphora, Combretum and open Terminalia woodlands over denser environments like Brachystegia woodlands. The Angolan giraffe can be found in desert environments. Giraffes browse on the twigs of trees, preferring trees of genera Acacia, Commiphora and Terminalia, which are important sources of calcium and protein to sustain the giraffe's growth rate. They also feed on shrubs, grass and fruit. A giraffe eats around 34 kg (75 lb) of foliage daily. When stressed, giraffes may chew the bark off branches. Although herbivorous, the giraffe has been known to visit carcasses and lick dried meat off bones.
During the wet season, food is abundant and giraffes are more spread out, while during the dry season, they gather around the remaining evergreen trees and bushes. Mothers tend to feed in open areas, presumably to make it easier to detect predators, although this may reduce their feeding efficiency. As a ruminant, the giraffe first chews its food, then swallows it for processing and then visibly passes the half-digested cud up the neck and back into the mouth to chew again. The giraffe requires less food than many other herbivores, because the foliage it eats has more concentrated nutrients and it has a more efficient digestive system. The animal's feces come in the form of small pellets. It is common for a giraffe to salivate while feeding. When it has access to water, a giraffe drinks at intervals no longer than three days.
Giraffes have a great effect on the trees that they feed on, delaying the growth of young trees for some years and giving "waistlines" to trees that are too tall.Feeding is at its highest during the first and last hours of daytime. Between these hours, giraffes mostly stand and ruminate. Rumination is the dominant activity during the night, when it is mostly done lying down.