Fact Checked

How Long Is a Giraffe Tongue?

April S. Kenyon
April S. Kenyon

A giraffe tongue measures approximately 18 to 21 inches (45.72 to 53.34 centimeters) on an adult. This is in proportion to the size of the giraffe, the tallest of all land mammals, and its long neck. It is usually blue-black in color.

Adult male giraffes can be as much as 18 feet (5.49 meters) tall, while a female can grow to approximately 14 feet (4.27 meters). Their legs are approximately 6 feet (1.83 meters) long. Males weigh up to 3,000 pounds (1360.78 kilograms), and females can weigh as much as 1,500 pounds (680.39 kilograms). The lifespan of a giraffe is typically 15 to 20 years.

A giraffe's long tongue allows it to reach the highest leaves.
A giraffe's long tongue allows it to reach the highest leaves.

A giraffe’s tongue color is blue-black. It is thought that the dark color of a giraffe tongue serves as protection from sunburn. The height of the giraffe, in combination with the length of a giraffe tongue, allows the animal to reach the highest leaves on a tree. It has little to no competition for food.

Like cows, giraffes have four compartments in their stomach and regurgitate their food. When a giraffe is not eating, it is generally chewing on its cud. The narrowness of the giraffe tongue only allows it to grab a few leaves at a time, so it eats consistently throughout the day. Giraffes can consume approximately 75 pounds (34.02 kilograms) of leaves a day.

Acacia leaves are a favorite of the giraffe. The long thorns on the branches of this tree prove to be no obstacle for a long giraffe tongue. Giraffes have thick saliva that coats any thorns they may swallow, allowing them to easily slide down the throat. The long, slender shape of the giraffe tongue also allows it to easily slip between the thorns so that very few are actually consumed.

Giraffes can go long periods of time without drinking, primarily because of their diet. The favored acacia leaves contain large amounts of water, making it unnecessary to drink. When water is readily available, however, a full grown giraffe can drink up to 10 gallons (37.85 l) a day.

At birth, giraffes are approximately 6 feet (1.83 meters) tall and weigh between 100 and 150 pounds (45.36 to 68.04 kilograms). Typically, only one calf is born at a time, though twins can sometimes occur. Giraffes give birth standing up. The embryonic sack drops five to six feet (1.52 to 1.83 meters) and breaks open when it touches the ground.

You might also Like

Discussion Comments


A giraffe's tongue not only has a lot of saliva, but it is also very thick for protection against thorns. As the giraffe selects leaves that can be eaten. it is less likely for the thorns to cut the thick tongue. It's another evolutionary wonder.

Also, a giraffe's tongue is only dark at the tip. If one looks at pictures, it can be seen that the root of the tongue is pink just like our tongue. This only proves that the tongue became dark over centuries as the tip of the tongue was exposed to sun. So this is evolution too. It's quite amazing.


Wow, I had always wondered why a giraffe's tongue is dark like that. It never occurred to me that it could be for sun protection but that makes a lot of sense.

Doctors say that people with darker skin have greater protection against the sun. That's why fair skinned individuals have to be more careful and wear sunscreen to avoid getting burnt.

The same logic applies to animals. A giraffe is eating all day under the sun. A giraffe's tongue can certainly get sun burnt. It's amazing the characteristics that animals have. They have evolved perfectly to survive in their environments.


Scientists have still not figured out why a giraffe has such a long neck. It is assumed to be natural selection but the cause of it has not been identified.

Is this the case with the giraffe's tongue as well? The tongue is long so as to be able to reach the leaves on the branches correct? Has anyone seen any research about this?

Post your comments
Forgot password?
    • A giraffe's long tongue allows it to reach the highest leaves.
      By: David_Steele
      A giraffe's long tongue allows it to reach the highest leaves.