Hunting Giraffe in Africa

Hunting Giraffe in Africa

When hunting giraffe in Africa, you are hunting for a truly big animal.  The African giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis) is the tallest living animal and the largest ruminant.  Its closest living relative is the okapi.  Its range extends from Chad to South Africa; Niger to Somalia.  The African giraffe thrives on acacia leaves which it can browse on at heights other animals can’t reach.  It also consumes shrubs, fruit and grasses.  An adult African giraffe has no natural enemies save for lion.  However, the calves are hunted by hyenas, leopards, and wild dogs.  Males establish dominance through fighting with their heads using their long necks to try to hit the other giraffe.

Mature African giraffes stand some 16-20 feet tall.  Average weight is 2,600 pounds for the male and 1,800 for the female.  There are records showing maximum weight for an old Stink Bull giraffe of 4,250 pounds. (“Stink Bull” - giraffe have chemicals in their fur that give the animal their smell.  As an African giraffe ages, the smell gets stronger.  An African giraffe appears to be all legs and neck with a compact body.  A giraffe’s coat can run the gamut from orange to almost black over white or cream hair depending on its age and territory.  Both sexes have horn-like growths on top of their skulls called ossicones.  These are made out of cartilage that has hardened and become covered with skin.  The giraffe bull uses these to fight with other males.

African giraffes have only two methods of locomotion; walking and galloping.  At a gallop, the giraffe can travel at 35 miles per hour.  To help stabilize their balance, they move their heads back and forth as the run.  This gives then a rocking gate that is very noticeable.  An African giraffe’s heart weighs upwards of 25 pounds and its wall can be three inches thick.  The heart must generate roughly twice the blood pressure of a human being just to pump blood to the brain.  Various valves in the neck impede the blood flow to the brain when the giraffe bends forward for a drink of water.

African giraffes prefer living in grasslands, woodlands and savannas where food is plentiful.  African giraffe gestation is well over one year; averaging between 400-460 days.  Newborn calves are six feet tall, and can run after just a few hours.  Females with calves will gather together in herds for calf protection. 

African giraffes have a long life span when compared to similar animals, up to 25 years in the bush.  One quarter to one half of all calves survive to maturity.  Adult African giraffes are prey for lions, but are capable in fighting off an attack by kicking out at the lions.  A good solid blow from a hoof the size of a wastebasket will break a lion’s jaw at the least, or kill the lion outright.  Adult African giraffes are at danger from Nile crocodiles when they bend down to drink from a river.


Hunting giraffes in Africa is done by spot and stalk or by tracking the giraffe’s very distinct hoof prints.  It has excellent eyesight, and from its lofty height can see hunters approach from quite a distance.  It’s cautious and equipped with excellent hearing.  Even though an old Stink Bull at eighteen feet tall is taller than most surrounding trees and bushes, he can be difficult to stalk when hunting giraffe in Africa because his hide works so well as camouflage, and he’s quite capable of disappearing into the terrain when he is found.  The advantages are definitely with him, not the hunter.  Usually the first close up view of an African giraffe is of his hindquarters disappearing into the brush.  One successful method used when hunting giraffe in African is to locate his tracks, determine the direction of travel, then, careful of staying downwind, cut the corner on him and wait for the giraffe to come to you.

The African giraffe’s vital organs are situated differently than most animals.  The heart is located high and to the front of the body, almost behind the foreleg where it attaches to the massive shoulder bone.  Giraffe lungs are high and close to the foreleg also.  If a shot is placed too far back, it won’t do much immediate damage.  Too far forward and the bullet might strike the shoulder bone or foreleg. This will break a bone, but won’t anchor the African giraffe. 

The giraffe’s brain is quite small and sits between the horns and to the back of the skull.  A spine shot to the center of the neck where it joins the body will bring the giraffe down where it stands.  Be very cautious about quartering shots.  There’s a lot of bone in the way for a front quartering shot, and a lot of thick skin and giraffe muscle on the rear.

When hunting giraffe in Africa, the lightest recommended caliber starts in the.375 range.  Smaller calibers are legal, but bullet placement is of vital importance.  A lightly-wounded giraffe can cover a lot of ground, and easily be lost.  I’ve heard of hunter’s taking a bull giraffe with a handgun - S&W 500 with good bullets, but most giraffes are hunted with a rifle.