All You Need to Know About the Thornicroft Giraffe

Giraffes are an iconic part of the savannah skyline, graceful silhouettes striding across the African plains with the sky burning bright orange in the distance.  Several subspecies of giraffes roam the land but their numbers have declined to vulnerable levels. The Thornicroft Giraffe, endemic to Zambia, and found in the South Luangwa National Park is one of these subspecies. 


Thornicroft Giraffe are also commonly called Rhodesian Giraffe. 

Baby Thornicroft Giraffe


Giraffes have some of the most interesting feeding habits, seeking out thorny acacia trees when available. Their long tongues and prehensile upper lips allow them to seek out the juicy green leaves in between the thorns and strip a twig bare without getting injured. 


These leaves also hydrate the giraffes but they do take a sip of water when it is near. Their lanky bodies make drinking difficult and taking an a-shaped stance at the watering hole leaves them vulnerable for attack. 


Thornicroft Giraffes are social animals and their herds can be as big as 20 members. They are endemic to Zambia and live on the arid planes where trees are plentiful. Here giraffes have space to reach top speeds of up to 35km/h if they need to escape from a predator and there is plenty of space for them to roam. 


Giraffes are one of the most recognisable animals on the planet. Their long necks and spotted hide is hard to confuse and they stand out amongst other mammals at almost 6 meters tall, the tallest land animal in fact. 


You can spot the Thornicroft Giraffe by it’s unique pattern and size. The Thornicroft Giraffe does not have a patterned hide below its knees and it is slightly smaller than other giraffe species in Africa. All giraffes have tufted horns, although males tend to grow “bold” with time due to fighting. A bull’s brown spots also darken as they age becoming much more prominent after they are around 11 years old. 

Life Cycle

The Thornicroft Giraffe is classified as vulnerable and their numbers have gone to less than 550 animals left in the wild. These distressing numbers are mostly due to poaching and habitat loss but the Zambian government has gone to great lengths to try and preserve these beautiful creatures.


They start to breed after the age of 6 and can produce one calf around every 2 years. Their gestation period is 15 months but many calves succumb to predation in their first year of life. If they can make it into adulthood they can live to be up to 28 years old.

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Interesting Facts

  • A giraffe has blood pressure more than 3 times that of a human and they have the largest heart of any animal on earth, weighing 11 kgs. 
  • A giraffe has the same number of vertebrae in its neck as a human, 7.
  • Male giraffes fight for dominance over a herd by thrashing their necks at each other and kicking.
  • A collective group of giraffes on the move is called a Journey. However you could also use the collective noun tower for Giraffes when they are standing still.


Giraffes have a long blue tongue that can be around 50cm long.

Thornicroft Giraffes are also known as Rhodesian Giraffes. Rhodesia was a former British colony and is today known as Zimbabwe. 

The only living relative of the giraffe is the okapi. It looks like a cross between a giraffe and a zebra and lives in forested areas in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.


At Kafunta you can see these majestic animals in their natural habitat, towering above the African grasslands. 

PS: There is currently a debate about the classification of the Thornicroft giraffe as a Masai giraffe. You can read more here.

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