Giraffe Skull

This is the skull of an adult giraffe. It is held at the Booth Museum of Natural History.

What can this skull tell us about giraffes?

Gap-toothed

Giraffes ‘chew the cud’, which means they chew part-digested plant food repeatedly before swallowing it. You can see the powerful teeth needed for that, at the back.

Giraffes don’t have front teeth, because they don’t need them. To grasp their food, they use their very long, rough tongue.

Wide-eyed beauties

We associate giraffes with their extremely long necks, but they have other unusual features.

Look at the eye sockets in this skull: giraffes have the largest eyes and longest eyelashes of any land-living mammal. Combined with the long neck, this gives them a a large field of vision so they can see predators coming from a long distance.

The long lashes and dark-rimmed eyes also makes it look as if they were wearing heavy eyeliner. Is this why we think of them as beautiful?

Antlers?

What are these strange protrusions at the top of the giraffe’s skull?

Until the late 18th century they were thought to be horns or antlers, and giraffes were often wrongly put into the taxonomical family of deer. But here we clearly see that they are part of the skull’s structure.

Although derived from cartilage, these so-called ossicones fuse with the skull when a giraffe grows up and become part of the bone structure.

Ossicones are covered in skin and tufts of fur. A giraffe can deliver fatal blows to another giraffes with them.

Very few other animals have them. One of them is the Okapi, the only creature closely related to the giraffe.

Author: Alexandra Loske, Royal Pavilion Curator (and giraffe enthusiast)