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Scientific Classification

The taxonomic family Giraffidae contains only two living species, the Giraffe and the Okapi. They are very different animals, but share some of the same traits like the design of their face. They both have long tongues and most of the same facial features. They also have a relatively close incubation period for their calves and are sexually mature around age three. Both have a twenty-five year life span as well. They do differ in the fact that the giraffe is tall and usually tan with spots, where the Okapi is brownish with zebra-looking legs and pretty short. They also differ in the fact that giraffes travel in groups, where Okapi travel more alone. Both species have the leopard as their predator and both eat mostly twigs and leaves. These two animals though different in size and color are closely related by their features and part of their life cycles.

Body Design

Up close look on a giraffe's fur coat.

Male giraffes can reach up to 2,600 pounds while females are a little smaller. Female Giraffes weigh about 1,800 pounds. Both are an average of 14 to 15 feet tall. Giraffes have really long tongues, about 18 inches in length. These tongues help them reach food and they can even hold on to things. They also have thick lips to protect them from sharp branches and twigs. They have small horns, to protect their head in fighting, and they also have small ears. Giraffes have long necks as well. They have strong and long legs that protect them from predators. They can run up to 35 miles per hour. They move both legs on the same side instead the two front legs and the two back. Lastly they have spots that resemble a leopard quite a bit. [2]

Okapi are very different looking creatures from the giraffe. They have zebra patterned legs. These legs help them camouflage especially when they hide in par of the sunlight in the rainforest. Though very different they have ears that are similar to the giraffes ears.[3] They also have similar heads to Giraffes, especially their tongue. Besides their zebra stockings they also have a burgundy, brownish middle. The male Okapi can weigh anywhere from 440 pounds to 460. The female can weigh somewhere between 500 pounds to 750. The height is about 5 to 6 feet tall from the shoulder. All in all, these two species look quite different. [4]

Life Cycle

Two different stages in the life cycle of a Giraffe cameloparadalis; parent and calf.

Giraffes and okapis have pretty similar life cycles. For an Okapi they reach their sexual maturity at the age of three. Females attract the males by trumpet type calls and leave a scent trail in the forest. A mother okapi has a gestation period of fourteen months. When the calf is born it weighs thirty to sixty pounds and can stand within thirty minutes. Then the mother keeps the little okapi in hiding for two months. This keeps it from predators and helps it to grow faster. The calf will stop nursing at about six months. Most okapi can live up to fifteen to twenty years old, especially in captivity. [5]

A giraffe is sexually mature from the ages of three to five. They can mate year round, but mating usually peaks in the rainy season. Giraffes usually give birth standing up. When a calf is born it is about six feet tall and weighs 150 to 200 pounds. The calf can then walk in about an hour. Then the calves are put into type of a day care called a crèche. Mother giraffes take turns watching it. The average lifespan of giraffe is like the okapi, which is twenty years. [6]


Areas where some of the Giraffidae Family live.

Okapis live deep in the forests of central Africa. They usually live alone without any groups. Also, their homes are quite small. They eat mostly twigs and leaves, but sometimes they eat grass.[7]The Okapi’s predators include leopards, servals, and humans. This species of giraffidae is very shy and subtle. They depend on the vegetation around them to keep out of sight. A person might also find them by slow-moving freshwater.[8]

Giraffes, on the other hand, live in groups and depend on each other. They can live in herds with up to twenty-five animals in them. For this reason they are more likely to live in big savannahs. They only eat twigs and leaves, which they can reach easily with their long necks. [9] Their predators include lions, leopards, African wild dogs, and hyenas. Only 25% to 50% survive to adulthood because of these predators.[10]


A giraffe looks like a cross between a camel and a leopard because it has a hump like a camel and spots like a leopard. People used to call it the Camel- Leopard which is where it got its name camelopardalis. People also used to think that they were mute, but they do communicate with moans. Giraffes, in addition, have the same number of vertebrae in their necks as we do. [11] The Okapi is the only other species in the family Giraffidae. Their tongue, like the giraffes’, is so long they can lick their own ear. They used to be known by many as the, Forest Zebra. The Okapi was never classified a species until Harry Johnston sent two pieces of zebra like skin to London to be analyzed. Then Okapi became a species somewhere between 1900-1901.[8]


How a Giraffe grows up.



  1. Giraffidae Wikispecies. Web. last updated 25 July 2012 Author Unknown.
  2. Giraffe Anatomy Fusion Theme. Web. Accessed April 6, 2014 Author Unknown.
  3. Mammal Okapi San Diego Zoo Kids. Web. Accessed April 6, 2014 Author Unknown.
  4. Okapi Brookfield Zoo. Web. Accessed April 6, 2014 Author Unknown.
  5. Okapi Denver Zoo. Web. Accessed March, 23, 2013 Author Unknown.
  6. Giraffe Zoo Atlanta. Web. Accessed March, 23, 2013 Author Unknown.
  7. Giraffidae Animal Diversity Web. Web. Accessed March 24, 2014 Author Unknown.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Okapi A-Z Animals. Web. Accessed April 6, 2014.
  9. Giraffidae Animal Diversity Web. Web. Accessed March 24, 2014 Author Unknown.
  10. Africa Safaris The Animal Files. Web. Accessed March 23, 2014 .
  11. Gammon, Crystal. Fun Facts About Giraffes livescience. Web. Date of publication February 22, 2013 .