Matthew Fox wrote: “Animals are here in part to grant glimpses of the grace of beauty.” The giraffe is certainly one animal that does that for me. Let’s take a few minutes today to reflect on this extraordinary creature in God’s vast array of animals.
Let’s begin with the basic design of the giraffe which is quite remarkable. For one thing, giraffes have high blood pressure, about double that of human beings. The reason is simple. An adult giraffe’s head is about six feet above its body. If giraffes had the same blood pressure found in most animals, their blood would rise only part way up their neck!
But such high blood pressure has consequences: the pressure that pushes the blood up to the brain is also pushing it down into the feet and legs potentially causing severe swelling. But giraffes don’t walk around with swollen legs or feet. Why not? Because, as researchers have discovered, giraffe’s have a “natural gravity suit.” Their skin and other tissue in their legs are much stiffer and tougher than that of most animals. This toughness prevents their feet and legs from swelling.
Another fascinating aspect of their design concerns their jugular vein in their long necks. When giraffes bend over to drink, why doesn’t the blood rush to their heads? Because their jugular veins have “flapper valves” that prevent the blood from flowing the wrong way. (The veins in our human legs operate in much the same way.)
Here are some other fascinating facts about giraffes:
* Giraffes are the tallest mammals on earth, averaging a height of 16 to 18 feet.
* The gestation period for giraffes is about 15 months! Female giraffes give birth standing up and drop their babies about 5 feet! (Giraffes learn early how jolting life can be at times!) But within 30 minutes after birth baby giraffes are standing and within 10 hours they are running beside their mothers.
* Giraffes require the least amount of sleep of any mammal—only about two hours a day. And sometimes they sleep standing up.
* The spots on a giraffe are unique to each individual. No two giraffes have the same pattern of spots.
* The darker the spots, the older the giraffe.
* Giraffes eat about 100 pounds of leaves and twigs each day. Their extra long tongues (over 21 inches!) help them to strip leaves from tall trees.
* Giraffes are most vulnerable when they have to bend down for a drink of water. Fortunately they need to drink water only every few days since they draw most of their water from leaves.
* Giraffes are essentially sociable and peaceable. Although males sometimes swing their long necks at each other in a menacing way, such sparring seldom results in injury.
* Giraffes can run 35 miles an hour for short periods and 10 miles per hour for long periods.
Let us close this reflection with a little prayer in gratitude for giraffes:
thank you for giraffes!
Thank you for giving them such long and amazing necks.
And thank you for figuring out a way to get their blood to flow all the way up to the top of their heads.
Thank you for their spotted fur coats, their long eyelashes, their graceful movement.
Thank you too for their gentleness and peacefulness.
We humans could learn from them.
When we gaze upon giraffes we are once again reminded of your ingenuity and playfulness.
But most of all, giraffes reveal to us your fondness for daring and delight.
And so, dear Creator God, we say thank you for giraffes.
In them you give us a glimpse of the grace of beauty . Amen.
What are your thoughts and feelings about giraffes?
What other animals are “glimpses of the grace of beauty” for you?