For Homo sapiens, the word “necking” has a somewhat romantic connotation. But for giraffes, it’s just the opposite.
Male giraffes fight with their necks because it’s the most powerful and maneuverable weapon they have. This type of fighting, known as necking, is unique to their species, as most hoofed animals kick, bite or head-butt with lowered horns.
The giraffe bull will fight to establish dominance or to win the right to mate with the females in a particular area. Sometimes the fight is short-lived; on rare occasions, it’s to the death.
Their spot patterns and their super-long dark tongues make giraffes a curiosity, but it’s their long necks that make them the subject of wonder and amazement. Although their necks measure up to eight feet in length and weigh over 600 pounds, they contain only seven cervical vertebrae (neck bones) – the same number as we humans have. The difference is, each giraffe vertebra can be up to one foot in length.
An seven-foot-long neck means that a giraffe’s heart must pump blood 7 feet straight up. Such work is hard on an animal’s heart, and is partly responsible for a 20 – 25 year life span, which might otherwise be longer.