What Does Giraffe Say?

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Nothing. Or, at least…nothing you or I can usually hear.

Ever get frustrated playing with a child because you don’t know what sound you should make for a giraffe? Yeah, me neither. But I know some really wonderful parents who do, and this post is for them.

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We saw giraffe in every area we traveled during this visit to The Kruger.

Unlike the quite vocal (yet elusive) fox, an adult giraffe is famously silent. For this reason, a myth persists that a giraffe does not have vocal cords.

Giraffes DO have vocal cords. But the vocal cords they have lack vocal power, meaning the most they can accomplish (audible to the human ear) are some low, hoarse moans and bleats.

Studies conducted after the turn of the century have shown that giraffes may vocalize on a low frequency, called “infrasonic vocalization.” This frequency is below the ability of normal human hearing. This type of vocalization is already known in elephants, whales and certain rhinos.

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The first giraffe we saw, within five minutes of entering The Kruger. He looked like he wanted to chat with us, and maybe he was, but we aren’t able to pick up infrasonic sound.

I was surprised at how many “fact” sites continued the myth of giraffes lacking vocal cords (aka “vocal folds”) as I browsed the internet. You know I much prefer a casual story to boring, factual journalism, but I get frustrated at the perpetuation of myths, when facts are so easily accessible these days. So for those of you still doubting, I have included links throughout today’s post, and none of them are to wikitardia.

Here are a few other facts about giraffes you can chew on while enjoying our giraffe photos from our August trip to The Kruger. If giraffes are your favorite, you need to visit Kruger.

One of our days we sat all day just enjoying watching a watering hole, and snapped some photos of giraffes drinking for you. Did you know that giraffes cannot have their neck lower than their heart for very long?

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Giraffe drinking at a watering hole near Crocodile Bridge Rest Camp in Kruger National Park.

Yup. The blood pressure change is dangerous, not to mention how vulnerable they are with their legs splayed apart, bent toward the water. It’s no wonder they were so apprehensive when coming to drink. In fact, we consider ourselves happy to have witnessed them drinking, because they get so much water from leaves that they only drink once every couple days.

expat life Pretoria South Africa travel

Drinking requires a lot of effort and vulnerability for a giraffe.

expat life Pretoria South Africa travel

Giraffes stand up quickly after drinking, flinging water as they do.

expat life Pretoria South Africa travel

Each drink comes after a lot of looking around and false starts.


Giraffes are the tallest mammals on earth (their 6 foot legs are probably taller than you!) Its height is its best protection against predators, because it means it can see them in the African savannah far enough away to avoid them (usually). I use this knowledge when driving around Kruger. If I see a lot of giraffe, I try to go to a different area, because my assumption is that there aren’t any predators within the giraffe’s sight distance, which is reportedly a visibility of several miles.

expat life Pretoria South Africa travel

The legs alone are around 6 feet. I don’t know about you, but that means my head is about giraffe-junk height. Not such a pretty picture.

expat life Pretoria South Africa travel

The sight of giraffes among lower bushes is simply stunning. It really feels like Africa to see those silhouettes rising above the tops of small trees and scrub.

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It’s easiest to see the height of a giraffe when it’s crossing the road.



Given that I still have a hard time finding predators in The Kruger, my logic is naive at best, but we all have our little ideas of how brilliant we are at spotting in The Kruger (after only two visits) so leave me to my own delusions, okay?

The plural of giraffe is giraffe. But “giraffes” is also acceptable, although it sounds awkward to my ears.

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Most of the giraffe we saw were in family units.

Birds can frequently be seen riding around on the necks and backs of giraffes. They eat ticks, and can serve as an additional warning signal of predators.

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Birds are seen frequently on African wildlife. They eat the ticks off giraffe and other mammals.

The giraffe tongue is actually prehensile, meaning something has adapted for grasping or holding (think opposable thumbs). so it can actually sort out the thorns from the leaves.

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A prehensile tongue helps the giraffe separate thorns from leaves.

expat life Pretoria South Africa travel

Apparently, however, even leafless trees are tasty.


Female giraffes give birth standing up. We did not witness any giraffes giving birth standing up, but we did see several baby giraffe which were quite adorable!

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Giraffe and baby sharing a few bites to eat before sunset.

expat life Pretoria South Africa travel

We almost missed this tiny giraffe and its twin. The twin is not in the picture, but can you see the little one on the far left? Compare it to mama on the right. They were in the distance as we drove back to Crocodile Bridge one evening.

Good job, by the way, on yesterday’s poll.  63% of you guessed correctly that I would be talking about giraffes today. I know I did challenge you with some tricky alternatives in yesterday’s poll. But remember, although the answers fit, the chupacabra is actually native to South America, not Africa, and the Marla is native to North America.

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I’m certain these three were posing on purpose.

Still want to know what noise to make when imitating a giraffe for a child?

You could try to imitate authentic sounds, as given in this YouTube video, but I’m pretty sure a little kid hearing these would most likely cry and have nightmares (giraffe is around minute 4:14):



My advice would be to abruptly stop reading, wait until the child looks at you (they will, when you’ve been silent long enough) then tilt your head slightly and hang your tongue out of your mouth. Then pick up reading where you left off without skipping a beat. Do it enough times and I think it’ll make a wonderful impression. Of course, don’t be surprised if you’re out in public and a stranger approaches you because she notices your little one is tilting his head and hanging his tongue out of his mouth, at which the stranger will smile at you, your kid, and say “Bless your heart.”

Whatever you do, dear readers to children, do not make “a sound like a dying giraffe”:



Love, Marla

[Today’s post dedicated to Emily and Brianna, who read so frequently to their amazing little ones, that I can only imagine that their version of what giraffe says is far more priceless than the reality of giraffe vocalization. And it’s for all of you who read to your little ones, because you instill the affection for reading and spark the imagination with your tireless voice impersonations and animated enactments of book life for a toddler.]



11 Comments on “What Does Giraffe Say?

  1. Pingback: The Tiniest Giraffe in the Whole Wide World? | Marla Sink Druzgal

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  4. I think the fox in that video sounded more like a wolf, but the giraffe, very cool. I loved, once again all your pictures. One of these days I will convince my husband this is a trip to take, I truly will.

  5. I loved this post. It made me remember when I was about five years old. My mom asked me what I wanted to be for Halloween and I said a giraffe. She went about making a giraffe costume with chicken wire and paper mache’. By the time she had it made, right before painting it, she told me to step in it to see how I looked in it and it was too heavy for me to lift! She asked if she should put it on wheels and all I could envision was me inside a runaway giraffe in the Bellevue street parade, so I said no and the costume was abandoned. What a wonderful memory you brought back to me. I loved so much that she tried to do that for me. Thank you, Marla! Miss you!

  6. HA! I knew I wasn’t the only one still obsessed with that amazing fox video. As for giraffe noises, I guess it has to do with physics and that long, long neck? Longer strings, deeper sounds and all? Anyway, this was a fun read, thanks 🙂

  7. Wow! Cool animal sound video. I can really have fun with my grandson now and that wordless animal book he loves so much…but yeah – think I’ll tone down that kanga!!

  8. Pingback: Weekly Photo Challenge: From Lions – I mean, Lines – to Patterns | humanTriumphant

  9. The giraffe is one of my favorite animals. I cannot tell you how much I enjoyed this post, and the pictures are wonderful!! Thank you for sharing!! lk

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