Starting Life

What is the gestation period of a giraffe?

The average gestation period for giraffe is 453-464 days or approximately 15 months.

Where and when do giraffe give birth?

Recent research points to some giraffe giving birth in a ‘calving ground’, a dedicated calving area. Some giraffe cows have been observed to return to where they were born to have their own calves. This is exciting news and more research will provide greater insight into these amazing creatures.

Giraffe have no formal breeding seasons as they are able to adjust feeding patterns seasonally to maintain a high nutrient diet throughout most of the year. It has been observed that calving can be synchronised in herds to provide safety in numbers against predators.

Giraffe give birth standing up, requiring the newborn to fall just under 2 metres (6 feet) to the ground! Designed for such an abrupt entry into the world, a newborn calf can stand up and run within an hour of being born.

What is a baby giraffe called?

A baby giraffe is called a calf. Also note, that while people often refer to a tower of giraffe or a journey of giraffe (when they are walking), scientifically, we call it a herd of giraffe.

How big are giraffe calves at birth?

The average height at birth is about 1.8 metres (6 foot) with a tendency for the females to be slightly smaller than the males. A newborn calf weighs about 100 kilograms. Newborn calves grow very quickly and can nearly double their height in the first year. Usually a giraffe will only have one calf although twins have been recorded.

For how long will a giraffe rely on its mother’s milk?

A newborn giraffe will suckle its mother’s milk as soon as it can stand up – that’s why they need to be so tall at birth. Calves are reliant on their mother’s milk for up to 9-12 months. They start eating solid food (leaves) from about 4 months at which time they also start to ruminate.

What is the biggest threat to a baby giraffe and how can a mother protect her calf?

The first few months of a giraffe’s life are the most vulnerable. Predators such as lion, hyena, wild dog, crocodile and leopard all see a baby giraffe as prey. Giraffe mothers are extremely protective and will meter out a powerful kick to any other animal that comes too close. Over 50% of giraffe calves don’t survive their first year in some populations.

During the first few days a newborn giraffe will often be left sitting in high grass, while the mother goes off to feed, but after a few weeks the youngster is introduced to the rest of the herd. Nursery groups, where one mother will keep watch while the others have a chance to go and find food, have been observed in the wild.

When do giraffe ‘leave home’?

Male calves will leave their mothers from about 15 months and often join all-male groups. The female juveniles, however, often stay in the same herd as their mothers. If they do leave, they leave at about 18 months old and often stay in the same areas as the family herd they grew up in.

More Giraffe Facts