Adult giraffes are fast and strong, which discourages most grassland predators. They have to be strong to carry their long, heavy necks around every day. Although a giraffe's neck is about as long as an average man is tall, it can weigh as much as several men.
Giraffes use their long necks to graze on leaves higher than other herbivores can reach and to spot predators before they get close. Their necks tend to average about 6 feet long, and supporting such a length requires powerful muscles and big bones. That causes their necks to be heavy, usually between 500 and 600 pounds.
Although their necks look like the longest part of their bodies, that isn't really the case. Giraffes' legs are about the same length as their necks, about 6 feet long. The rest of their height, about 4 to 5 feet, comes from their bodies. The weight of their necks, logically, makes up about a third of their body weight. Males typically weigh between 1,800 and 2,000 pounds, with about 600 pounds of that from their necks. Part of that weight comes from the seven vertebrae, which is the same number of vertebrae humans have in their necks. Giraffes' are much bigger, obviously, about 10 inches long.
Giving It a Rest
With such a heavy neck fighting gravity all day, you'd think giraffes would need to take a break every now and then. Although giraffes sometimes lie down and sleep with their necks wrapped back and resting on their hind legs, they don't usually sleep enough to make lying down worth their time. Most grab up to 30 minutes of snooze time per day, and they do that standing up to make it easier to rush away from predators when necessary.
Throwing Their Weight Around
Although female giraffes can use their necks to knock away predators as they run, they are more likely to use their feet to kick in defense. Male giraffes, however, commonly use their necks as a weapon. The enemy isn't predators -- it's each other. Males fight for female affection by "necking," or pounding their necks against each other. The weight helps the giraffes build momentum as they swing their heads. These long necks with their powerful muscles and heavy bones pack quite a punch, leaving some males seriously hurt after a necking match.
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