A grown giraffe, which stands up to 19 feet tall, is more than a mouthful for most predators, which keeps most of them at bay. A baby giraffe, however, is much more manageable prey. This means calves must be up and moving quickly -- and they are, right after they're born -- so they can flee with the rest of the herd when necessary.
An Hour After Birth
Giraffes have a rather shocking entry into the world -- they drop about 6 feet from their mom's womb down to the ground. This helps them take their first breath, the ground acting as a proxy for Dr. Camelopardalis, who spanks a newborn on the bottom to start breathing. It takes a giraffe baby a few minutes to get his bearings, during which time his mom licks him clean. Within an hour, most calves are standing and taking their first steps.
Giraffes' long legs might look gangly, but calves have remarkable control over them early in life. Soon after a calf takes his first steps, he walks over to his mom to start nursing. When his belly's full, he's energized and ready to see what his body can do. He masters walking quickly and he usually starts running before he's a full day old.
Stride and Speed
It takes more than two years for a giraffe to reach his full height and to hit his full stride. A 6-foot-tall giraffe calf can't match the stride of a walking adult -- no animal can, actually. A giraffe's walking stride can reach 15 feet. When running, an adult giraffe can run 30 to 35 mph.
Time Spent Walking
The ability to walk soon after birth gets calves ready for a lifetime on their feet. Giraffes eat up to 75 pounds of vegetation each day, which means lots of walking and grazing. Moms leave newborn giraffes hiding in the grass while they walk around and eat, while older calves hang out in a day-care of sorts, whereby female giraffes take turns watching them while other moms graze. An adult giraffe can spend 16 to 20 hours each day walking and grazing. Calves start munching on leaves at about 4 months of age. By the time they're 9 months to 12 months old, they don't need to nurse anymore and spend their days as adults do, walking and grazing.
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