The Incredible Heart of a Giraffe


Have you ever wondered why giraffes drink water with their legs spread wide apart? Makakatana Bay Lodge shares a few facts about these fascinating creatures:

Gravity is a giraffe’s biggest enemy, they have to bring their heads completely down to be able to drink water or to feed on lower shrubs. Their forelegs are longer than the neck so it is necessary for their legs to bend or be splayed in order for their heads to reach the ground.

How do you pump sufficient blood up such a long neck and how do you avoid all the blood flowing into the feet way below? The answer lays in the heart, which is large and significantly heavier than that of other mammals. The walls of the left ventricle are up to 7cm thick, beating at almost 3 beats per second at great pressure. This allows the blood to be pumped through the large body against the force of gravity and pressure of blood already in the arteries on the way to the brain. A selection of valves prevent damage to organs especially for the brain, when the head is lowered.


The skin around the legs is also incredibly thick and tight. It works like a compression sock to keep the pressure high and force the blood up against gravity. Even pilot’s G-suits were designed on this principle.” It seems that giraffes are much more than just the slender supermodels of the wilderness.

Contact Makakatana Bay Lodge

Tel: +27 (0) 31 940 8555