After a great game drive, we were heading back to the lodge for breakfast, when I saw some impala run in the distance, then stop and stare in one direction. I looked at my tracker and asked him, “Did you see that as well?” As we drove closer to investigate we came across two giraffes fighting. So, we stopped to watch these two males as they were really going for it. I took my camera out and took as many photos as I could – 144 to be exact – because you don’t always see this kind of interaction.
Giraffe males are the only ones to fight, not for territory, but for females. It is called necking. The males swing their heads at each other in a display of dominance – especially if one is older than the other – and especially if there is a female nearby.
Differences between the males and females are not always easy to see, especially in giraffe, due to their height. The male giraffe has no hair on top of the horns, but rather around the horns. This is a perfect example of two mature bulls. The horns are bald as the hair comes off due to necking. The horns are also much thicker to fight with. Female horns are thinner and face more inwards. They also have tufts of hair on top of their horns. A giraffe, like humans and most animal species, has seven neck vertebrae. When they fight, the males are trying to break their opponents neck because they know this is lethal. Quite strange when you look at a giraffe as you don’t normally picture them as an aggressive animal.
You will see in this photo that the giraffe is lifting its leg. This is a defensive manoeuvre to protect the soft area where the heart is situated. Due to their length, giraffes have one of the largest hearts of any mammal, and for another male to get a blow to that soft area is a bonus.
In this photo, you will see how the male to the right managed to land a blow to his opponent in an unguarded moment. Thump! You can hear the strength of the blow. Male giraffe will do anything to protect themselves, and to fight for dominance. Their female counterparts, like most females, are not interested in the fight.
After 40-minutes the males stopped fighting. In the far distance, you could see the female wandering off. Obviously, she had enough of these two Romeos. So, after all that, none of the males could claim Juliet as their prize!