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What Do Giraffes Eat?

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Giraffes are the tallest living terrestrial animals in the world.  In the past, people believed that there was just one species of the giraffe; the Giraffa camelopardalis with nine subspecies.  But now that technology has been advanced and DNA testing made it possible to link animal species together, people know that there used to be seven other species of giraffes that are now extinct.


We all know and identify these animals by their gracious long necks and unique coat patterns.  They seem like simple animals but there is much more to these beautiful animals than meets the eye.


What Do Giraffes Eat?

If you have ever seen a giraffe drink water then you probably already know that they prefer foods that are high up.  

But their digestive system is quite diverse allowing these herbivores to consume a much greater variety of foods than you might think.  They are known to consume over 100 different types of plant species. 


Here is a quick look at the foods that giraffes love to much on.  


Leaves and twigs

Giraffes mostly focus on plants that they can easily reach.  They will consume the leaves and twigs of a great variety of trees.  They are especially fond of acacia leaves but will also consume mimosa, wild apricot, and many other trees found in their natural habitat.  


Their long tongues allow them to easily reach around branches so they can strip leaves from bushes. Giraffes have thick tongues and lips and are hardly ever hurt by thorns. 

 They will wrap their tongues around thorny bushes and pull their heads back to rip leaves from thorny bushes without blinking an eye.   If the thorns are soft, they might choose to consume the branches with thorns and all. 



Giraffes can eat grass but prefer not to do so too often because it is hard for them to reach ground level.  They need to bend their knees or splay their front legs wide apart to reach short grass on the ground.  In harsh times, they will, however, do this so they can get the needed nutrition to survive.



These tall animals also enjoy an occasional sweet treat.  They will eat wild fruits they find growing on the canopies of trees. 

There is not a huge variety of wild fruits found in their natural habitat but they can consume a wide range of fruit types in captivity.  


Flowers and herbs

Giraffes can also consume flower and herb plants.  They do not consume these foods as often as leaves because fruits and herbs do grow closer to the ground and are harder to reach.  But giraffes are happy to much on these tasty foods if the trees in the area do not have much to offer.


Herbivore pellets

In zoos and other wildlife enclosures, giraffes are mostly fed on herbivore pellets.  These pellets offer them a balanced diet since the pellets consist of specific amounts of plant matter as well as added vitamins and minerals.  


In zoos, giraffes are also offered additional treats such as acacia leaves and other plants or fruits and carrots.  



Giraffes, like camels, can go for a long time without water.  These animals can endure weeks and even months without any water at all.  When they do have access to water, they usually consume about 7.5 liters of water every week.  This isn’t much at all considering that adult humans are encouraged to drink 2l of water a day.  


Giraffe Diet Variations

Giraffes do have quite a few diet variations.  They are often spotted chewing on old bones.  When this happens, the giraffe has osteophagy and they lack needed calcium in their diet.  They are especially likely to chew on old bones when they are pregnant.


In winter times, giraffes may feed on prickly pears to get needed nutrients and moisture.  


They will also feed on poisonous euphorbia trees in small quantities even though these trees can result in death if they consume too much of this food source.  Giraffes do this to help kill internal and external parasites during wintertime.  


When consuming twigs and branches, giraffes will consume everything found on these branches.  This can include bark, thorns, and even insects.


How to Feed Giraffe

Giraffes can be very dangerous.  They can be successfully domesticated and can be quite friendly since they do have such a gentle nature.   In zoos, these animals are often trained to come close to humans to be fed by hand.


But it is important to always play it safe when you are near giraffes.  A single kick from a giraffe is all it takes to kill a human and these animals have incredible speed and accuracy with their kicks.


If you are feeding wild giraffes then it is best to offer food at a dedicated feeding area from a truck. 

It is also best not to get too close to giraffes while they are eating.  They are not usually aggressive but are known to attack humans when they feel threatened.


When you are feeding domesticated giraffes, it is also best to steer clear of those sharp hooves and long necks.  Offer food from a safe distance such as from a balcony and be careful not to get too close to these animals even if they are tame.  


How Much Do Giraffes Eat?

Giraffes are huge animals.  It is no surprise that they do need a lot of food to stay nourished.  These animals will consume about 30kg of food per day but they can survive on 15kg per day.  


The average adult giraffe weighs around 800kg.  This means that an average adult giraffe eats about 4% of their body weight in a day.  


It can be hard for giraffes to find 30kg of food every day when they are surviving on just leaves and twigs.  Luckily, they don’t need quite as much sleep as most mammals and spend around 16 – 20 hours per day foraging for foods while the rest of the time is spent on chewing cud so they can digest foods.


What do Baby Giraffes Eat?

Baby giraffes are called calves.  Females are cows and males are bulls.  Giraffes are mammals and cattle rely on mother’s milk to survive.  For the first 4 – 6 months, they will only feed off their mothers. 


From 4 months, they will start to sample plants like young shoots and leaves.  By the time they are 12 months old, they can consume the same foods as adult giraffes and they are weaned.  The calves will only reach adulthood when they are 3 – 6 years old. 


What Do Wild Giraffes Eat?

In the wild, giraffes will eat over 100 different plant species.  Acacia leaves are their favorite foods but they will consume a great variety of food types including grass, fruits, twigs, and much more.  These animals can only consume foods that are found in their natural habitat.


They prefer foods that grow higher up in trees like leaves but will feed on lower foods like brushes and grass in harsh conditions.


What Do You Feed A Giraffe?

You can feed giraffes a great variety of foods.  They mostly survive on leaves, twigs, and grass.  In zoos, these animals are kept healthy on herbivore pellets.  They are also offered all sorts of treats that include leafy vegetables, romaine lettuce, roots, fruits, sweet potatoes, cabbage, parsnips, and many other foods.


Domesticated giraffes may grow fond of human foods such as bread.  These foods should however not be offered to these animals.  Their digestive system cannot properly digest these foods and it can result in imbalances or digestive problems.


Only offer giraffes a treat that is recommended by your zookeeper if you do desire to feed these animals.  


 Do Giraffes Eat Carrots?

Giraffes do eat carrots and they do quite like the taste of these vegetables.  In zoos, visitors are often given vegetable foods like carrots to offer to giraffes as a treat.  It is however important not to over-feed giraffes on carrots only since they need a versatile diet to remain healthy.


Do Giraffes Eat Bananas?

In the wild, giraffes will eat fruits they find on trees.  They will also eat bananas if they can find these tasty fruits.  In zoos and other enclosures, owners and visitors often offer giraffes bananas as a tasty treat to munch on.


Once again, it is important not to over-feed giraffes on bananas.  They need lots of leafy greens to stay healthy and nourished.  Giraffes will chew their cud throughout the day.  A huge bunch of bananas in their tummies can start to ferment which can cause swelling and even death in giraffes.  



Giraffes are beautiful and peaceful creatures.  They deserve the best care they can possibly get.  With lots of freshwater and a healthy balanced diet, these animals will be happy and full of life. In the wild, they are known to live 10 – 15 years and if they are well maintained in captivity, they can live to be 20 – 25 years old. 

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