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The battle of the gentle giants
September 30, 2007 12:14 PM   Subscribe

Giraffe mating battles can be brutal but they are generally gentle giants. Man's fascination with these exotic creatures can be tracked from 9,000 year old rock art to the quest for exotics that brought them to the courts of Medici-era Florence, Restoration Paris, and Imperial China, spawning much curiosity and fanciful illustration. Today, giraffe-o-philes can get up close and personal in Kenya's Giraffe Manor.

Zheng Hai's giraffe
Medici Giraffe
Zarafa, the giraffe that walked to Paris in 1827.
Michael Poliza's giraffe photos
Tall Blondes - Lynn Sherr narrates a wonderful PBS Nature episode on giraffes, available in 11 segments.
In pursuit of giraffes - BBC's Joanna Lumley
posted by madamjujujive (32 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
I read somewhere that every time a giraffe gets an erection he risks suffering a stroke because of the massive transfer of blood to the genitalia and the distance of the brain from the rest of the body; I'm sure it's bullshit but it really makes me laugh, it makes getting a hardon look really heroic.
posted by matteo at 12:19 PM on September 30, 2007


(maybe I didn't read it; maybe somebody at a party said it, I can't remember)
posted by matteo at 12:20 PM on September 30, 2007


Whoa, thats incredible footage.
posted by damn dirty ape at 12:53 PM on September 30, 2007


They aren't fighting. They're necking.
posted by srboisvert at 1:20 PM on September 30, 2007


If a giraffe dips his head below a certain height while fighting, will it simply explode from the blood pressure necessary to pump blood all the way up its neck? I assume the answer is no, but how do they do that? Some sort of feedback loop that modulates blood pressure on demand? Anyone know?
posted by reformedjerk at 1:39 PM on September 30, 2007


I was once at a zoo and saw a pair of flamingos fight(youtubelinknotmine). It is hard to imagine a creature more poorly built for agression.
posted by hexatron at 1:40 PM on September 30, 2007


You had me at "Giraffe mating battles."
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 1:41 PM on September 30, 2007


reformedjerk: giraffes are the only animal which have valves in their arteries as well as their veins. But it's not for putting their heads down, it's to get the blood all the way up to their brains without too much backflow.
posted by biscotti at 1:50 PM on September 30, 2007


Other fun cameleopard facts:
• As giraffes are rarely heard, many people think they are mute. They will vocalize by emitting moans, hisses, snores, hisses, coughs, grunts, moos, snorts, bleats, low notes, low fluttering sounds or flute-like sounds or whistles.
• Their chief defense is their legs — they can outrun most predators, and are able to kill lions with a single kick
• They are among the very few mammals that cannot swim
• They give birth to single calves, which are 6 feet tall (the height necessary to nurse)
• The giraffe is one of the few animals born with horns, which fold back during birth to protect the mother. Initially small blobs of cartilage that harden with age, the horns pop up about a week after birth
• Their long tongues are bluish-black, it's thought to protect against sunburn
• Their only close relative is the much smaller okapi, which was unknown in the West until the early 1900s
posted by rob511 at 1:52 PM on September 30, 2007 [2 favorites]


Wow, I mean OW! Great video footage. Wonderful post.

Loved the shock of the onlookers in their various languages. That's a vicious duking it out. Those bone crunching bashes and thuds! Whoda thunk those elegant giants did that?

Maybe they've got a hangover after eating from the Marula tree? (Sometimes critters do get drunk, even on fermented pumpkins).

Zarafa walked to Paris?! What a story!

"She over-wintered in Marseilles, where she was joined by the naturalist Étienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire for the walk. He ordered a two-part yellow coat for her, to keep her warm, and shoes for her feet. She set out on 20 May 1827, already 15 cm taller than when she arrived in Marseilles. She was accompanied by her cows and Saint-Hilaire, then aged 55, who walked with her. The walk to Paris took 41 days. She was a spectacle in each town she passed through, Aix-en-Provence, Avignon, Orange, Montelimar, Vienne. She arrived in Lyon on 6 June, where she was applauded by a crowd of 30,000."

Amazing. Aww, giraffe shoes and coat. (Trying to imagine what the heck that outfit looked like.)
posted by nickyskye at 2:18 PM on September 30, 2007


Has anyone ever ridden a giraffe and if so, how?
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 2:32 PM on September 30, 2007


very cool post

thanks!
posted by rosswald at 2:36 PM on September 30, 2007


the left hook looked like it hurt.
posted by greenskpr at 2:48 PM on September 30, 2007


Alvy, here's a mini vid of a man sitting on the back of a giraffe and getting bucked off.
posted by nickyskye at 2:52 PM on September 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


Those aren't spots, they're hickeys!
posted by rob511 at 3:10 PM on September 30, 2007


If a giraffe dips his head below a certain height while fighting, will it simply explode from the blood pressure necessary to pump blood all the way up its neck? I assume the answer is no, but how do they do that? Some sort of feedback loop that modulates blood pressure on demand? Anyone know?

Backflow valves. You have them, too, in your legs, to fight gravity. And something called a rete mirabile. And giraffes top it off with have huge fucking hearts.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:14 PM on September 30, 2007


That 9000 year old giraffe stone carving is amazing. Oh, and btw, "Zarafa" or zarafeh is the Persian word for giraffe. It might actually be Arabic or Turkish in origin, but I'm not sure.
posted by Devils Slide at 3:21 PM on September 30, 2007


That Tall Blondes doc is worth watching. The part where they stick their heads in the windows of Giraffe Manor looking for treats at the breakfast table is just too cool.

I love giraffes.
posted by vronsky at 3:30 PM on September 30, 2007


According to wikipedia and some other place I can't remember, some fairly new research suggests that giraffes' primary mode of communication is in low frequency sounds - too low for humans to hear. Those sounds are much more common than the higher sounds they make that humans can hear.
posted by Catfry at 3:42 PM on September 30, 2007


They are among the very few mammals that cannot swim

Don't forget the Lead Balloon Possum.
posted by Falconetti at 3:50 PM on September 30, 2007


Note to self: When riding giraffes, use a saddle.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 3:52 PM on September 30, 2007


I love giraffes too. Although really I think the plural should be giraves.

(Elf=>elves; staff=>staves... you know it makes sense.)
posted by Pallas Athena at 4:07 PM on September 30, 2007


Today, giraffe-o-philes can get up close and personal in Kenya's Giraffe Manor.

you can do that at battle creek mi's binder park zoo - you can even feed them

unfortunately, they're closing for the season in a week
posted by pyramid termite at 4:16 PM on September 30, 2007


pyramind termite, your zoo link reminded me of the baby giraffe I saw (and pet!) at the Roger Williams Zoo in Providence a few years ago. I went to the site to see if there was a picture and learned that two new babies were born this year - they posted adorable pictures and a few clips. The cutest things!

(BTW, the segment of Tall Blondes I posted under gentle giants shows a giraffe birth - fascinating. Segment five show the baby giraffe with Mom and the herd.)
posted by madamjujujive at 5:24 PM on September 30, 2007


Located in the foothills west of Colorado Springs, Cheyenne Mountain Zoo lets you feed the giraffes up close and personal (with RyKrisp crackers), and they have a live GiraffeCam. More giraffe info and photos of a live birth at the zoo.

At about 18 feet, giraffes are the tallest known mammals. When dinosaurs ruled the Earth, Sauroposeidon — estimated at some 55 feet tall (with a neck almost 40 feet long) — was the big kid on the block. More in this interview with one of the discoverers.
posted by cenoxo at 5:33 PM on September 30, 2007


What a grand way to end a Sunday. The minute I see the mjjj under a post, I know it's going to be loaded with marvelous edutainment.
posted by FelliniBlank at 5:51 PM on September 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


Damn, I reckon that'll put a crick in their necks!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:38 PM on September 30, 2007


This all is great. Thanks!
posted by salvia at 10:35 PM on September 30, 2007


I got to hang out with a week old giraffe for half an hour as part of the induction program at a city council I worked at. He was pretty cool, if a bit wobbly on the old legs.

Years later, I lived in a house where I could stand on my balconey and see the exact same giraffe in the valley below, all growed up. He was still taller than me and never waved back. Maybe he needed glasses.
posted by Sparx at 1:46 AM on October 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


Giraffes? Giraffes!

(possibly my all time favorite eggers iteration)
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 8:55 AM on October 1, 2007


Also, here's the giraffe I remember most from my childhood zoo visit. Those serene eyes- reassuring, given her condition.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 8:57 AM on October 1, 2007



Why don't giraffes do drugs?
Because they're naturally high!

Why didn't they invite the giraffe to the party?
He was a pain in the neck!
posted by baker dave at 9:54 AM on October 1, 2007


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