Have you ever wondered where the phrase, “Big 5” comes from? Most clients will ask, when requesting a safari, “are we going to see the Big 5?”
The term is attributed to the hunters of old, who used the term to describe what they determined were the most dangerous animals to hunt in Africa.
They are lions, leopards, elephants, rhinos and Cape buffaloes. All formidable foes indeed when being hunted by man.
Fortunately nowadays, most countries in Africa have banned hunting in favor of photographic safaris.
Now what about the giraffe? If dangerous refers to size, the giraffe is the tallest land animal, as the elephant is the biggest land animal.
So if the requirement was size, the giraffe would make the cut and we would have the Big 6!
The most dangerous aspect of a giraffe is its kick. Lions, when hunting giraffe, have to keep out of the way of the giraffe’s kick, not to sustain an ugly wound, or even death.
When not being hunted by man or beast, giraffes mind their own business, and add beauty to the landscape with their long necks and eyelashes.
Scientists can’t agree on how many different types of giraffes there are in Africa. Some say only one main species, with four sub species, while others say seven species in total.
Whatever the number, those of us who grew up in Zambia, claim our very own species of giraffe, the Thornicroft’s giraffe. Take a look at our sample itinerary to Zambia where you are likely to spot the Thornicroft giraffe. It’s found in the Luangwa.
To the uneducated eye, different species of giraffe will all look the same. It’s only their coloring and markings that distinguish them from each other.
And that long neck is actually used as a weapon! Giraffes spar with each other with their necks. Which is quite extraordinary when you realize their necks have the same number of vertebra as us humans, seven!
And if you were a baby giraffe, you would have come into the world with an almighty thump, as giraffes give birth standing up.
And those long legs? Unlike other animals, giraffes move both legs on one side and then both legs on the other side.
While they look ungainly, the giraffe can get up a good head of speed, around 35 mph. As a human, you won’t quite be able to catch up with a giraffe; not even Usain Bolt!
Next time you’re on safari, you might want to add the giraffe to the so called Big 5, if for no other reason than their unique characteristics.