The Story Of Wild Animals:
Prong-buck Or American Antelope
Indian Black Buck
Story Of The Rhinoceros
Story Of The Musk-ox
Story Of The Giraffe
Story Of The Fox
Story Of The Seal
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Story Of The Giraffe
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
One of the most curious sights I ever witnessed was a giraffe drinking. It was on the edge of Kalahari Desert in South Africa. I had gone into camp near a stream, and while my men were preparing the evening meal, I was reclining near a clump of bushes, enjoying my pipe a Boer fashion of smoking before meals, as well as after when I heard a noise near the stream below me. Looking in that direction I saw a pair of full grown young giraffes that had stopped at the edge of the stream and were preparing to drink.
Although they have such long necks they are not long enough to reach the ground when the giraffe is standing in an ordinary position.
The male giraffe placed one forefoot slightly in front of the other and then began straddling his forelegs wide apart. Little by little with a jerky motion he spread his legs until they were far enough apart to enable him to reach the water, but he made three attempts before he was successful. He was such a comical sight that I burst out laughing. They heard me, looked up and saw me, and then took to their heels.
My native men had told me that the giraffe never drinks, but I knew then that they were mistaken. It is certain, however, that the giraffes of the North Kalahari Desert will go from seven to eight months without water.
The giraffe is the tallest, most graceful and one of the most remarkable of all animals. It belongs to a family apart from any other in natural history. The chief point of contrast, and one which has been the source of much discussion among scientific men, is the pair of horn-like appendages on the top of the giraffe's head. As it is largely owing to the peculiar nature of these appendages that the giraffe is referred to a distinct family, they require somewhat fuller notice. These horns, as they may be conveniently called, are only a few inches in length, and are present in both sexes, making their appearance even before birth. They are at first entirely separate from the bones of the skull, although in later life completely uniting with them. They are thus essentially different from the horn-cores of the oxen and their allies, from which they are likewise distinguished by being invested with skin instead of horn.
This beautiful and extraordinary animal is found only in South Africa.
In the opinion of modern naturalists, it holds a place by itself between the deer and antelopes; it forms, at ail events, a group to which no other animals belong. The height of the giraffe varies from thirteen to eighteen feet. Its beautiful long neck enables it to browse on the leaves of the trees on which it feeds. It is very dainty while feeding, and plucks the leaves one by one with its long, flexible tongue. The females are of lower stature, and more delicately formed than the males.
The movements of the giraffe are very peculiar, the limbs of each side appearing to act together. It is very swift, and can outrun a horse, especially if it can get among broken ground and rocks, over which it leaps with a succession of frog-like hops.
The senses of both sight and hearing are highly developed; and the lofty position of the head gives to the soft and liquid eyes a wide field of view. The animal's only means of defense is by kicking out with its legs; and the blows thus delivered are of terrific force and power. This mode of attack is employed by the cow in defending her young, and likewise in the contests which take place among the males during the pairing season.
Some writers have discovered ugliness and a want of grace in the giraffe, but I consider that he is one of the most strikingly beautiful animals in the creation; and when a herd is seen scattered through a grove of the picturesque parasol-topped acacias which adorn their native plains, and on whose uppermost shoots they are enabled to browse through the colossal height with which nature has so admirably endowed them, he must indeed be slow of conception who fails to discover both grace and dignity in all their movements.
As in the case of most wild animals, the surroundings of the giraffe are a protection to him. Among the great South African forests, where innumerable blasted and weather-beaten trunks and stems occur, I have repeatedly been in doubt as to the presence of a troop, until I had recourse to my field glass, and I have known even the practiced eye of the natives deceived, at one time mistaking these trunks for giraffes, and again confounding real giraffes with these aged veterans of the forest. The dappled hide of the giraffe blends harmoniously with the splashes of light and shade formed by the sun glinting through the foliage of the trees beneath which the animals take their stand, and thus intensifies the illusion.
Giraffes range in herds of sixteen to one hundred. They are hunted principally for their hides, which are worth from twenty-five to forty dollars each.
I never shot one of these harmless, beautiful creatures, although I have had many opportunities.