Giraffe’s neck consists of seven vertebrae like any other mammals. Only difference is that, all individual vertebrae are elongated, usually more than ten inches in length.  Moreover, a normal giraffes neck is almost 6-foot long and weighs around 270 kg.[1] Anyone with basic knowledge in zoology wonders how an animal like giraffe can hold such a heavy neck, always high above the ground! The secret lies in its anatomy.

A giraffe’s neck contains huge amounts of muscle. Obviously it needs that. But that is not holding its neck so high. It is a band of elastic tissue, a ligament that runs from top of the neck to start of tail vertebrae. Actually the ligament band is normally holding its neck high by just pulling its neck against the weight of head and neck.

giraffe-neck-3d-webgraphics

The weight of its head is acting downward and the ligament is holding it upward. So the natural position for giraffe’s head is almost 55˚ from horizontal level. It is using its muscles to lower its head and no muscles are needed to held its head high. It is evident when it is drinking water or picking something from below.

Watch how it is holding its neck down by placing its legs apart, when drinking.

Drinking water
Drinking water

neck-infographics

References

1.
Giraffe | San Diego Zoo Animals (2016). animals.sandiegozoo.org. Available at: http://animals.sandiegozoo.org/animals/giraffe (accessed on 7 October 2016).

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