Battle of the NECKS
Giraffes (Giraffa camelopardalis) are the world’s tallest animals standing at a towering height of 5-6 meters (National Geographic, 2013). And it is without a doubt that their most distinctive feature is their long slender necks (1.5-2 meters).
But have you ever wondered what those long necks are for?
The most common (and boring) answer would be for feeding purposes. With their long necks, giraffes are able to reach and feed on the green luscious leaves of tall tree that would be out of reach to other animals. However, there are more than meets the “necks” for these gentle giants. Do you know that their long necks are also commonly used for battles (i.e. Neck-fight)?
“Necking” is a behaviour that is unique to giraffes and is used only by the male giraffes (female giraffes generally do not fight) to establish dominance hierarchies (defend/fight for territories) and also for courtship (Gould, 1996). It is observed that males who won the neck-fights have higher reproduction success because they are able to drive away other males who attempt to approach their female counterpart (Simmons & Scheepers, 1996).
“Necking” can take place at two intensities, either low or high.
Low intensity “necking” is generally observed in the younger male giraffes. The two male giraffes are seen to be rubbing and leaning against each other with occasional gentle blows (Simmons & Scheepers, 1996).
During high intensity “necking”, the two male giraffes can be seen standing next to each other and exchanging powerful blows with their necks (Simmons & Scheepers, 1996). They would first spread their front legs slightly apart before swinging their neck towards each other, attempting to strike blows at the opponent giraffe’s neck, chest or ribs with their well-armored hard skull and horns (ossicones) (Simmons & Scheepers, 1996). The opponent giraffe will attempt to dodge the attacks before making his counter attack. These strikes are powerful enough to cause serious injuries to the giraffes and in some cases, even deaths (Gould, 1996).
Below are two videos showing the intense neck-fights of the male giraffes.
Most Violent Giraffe Fight Ever
Giraffe, 2013. National Geographic. URL: http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/mammals/giraffe/ (assessed on 1April 2013)
Gould, S. J., 1996. The Tallest Tale. Natural History. 105(5): 18-27
Simmons, R. E. & Scheepers, L., 1996. Winning by a Neck: Sexual Selection in the Evolution of Giraffes. The American Naturalist. 148(5): 771-786
“Giraffes,” by Smriti, D. The Sunday Times: Funday Times, 10 July 2011. URL: http://www.sundaytimes.lk/110710/FunDay/fut_05.html (assessed on 3 April 2013)
“’Most Violent Giraffe Fight Ever’ Video Goes Viral: 2 Giraffes Slam Necks Against Each other,” by ABC News. ABC News YouTube Channel, 31 December 2012. URL: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VDhNutbXpFE (assessed on 3 April 2013).
“Wild: Giraffe Knock-out!,” by National Geographic Wild. National Geographic official website,n.d.. URL: http://channel.nationalgeographic.com/wild/videos/giraffe-knock-out/# (assessed on 3 April 2013)