The tallest of all animals, the giraffe is characterized by its very elongated neck and long limbs. Males, which are taller, range between about 4 and 5 m in height, with records of individuals up to 5.9 m. The shoulders appear higher than the rump, a feature accentuated by the long spines of the thoracic vertebra. Neck fringed with a short, thick mane. Ears narrow and pointed, eyes large.
Mitchell et al. (2009a) reported an upper weight for females of 1049.2 kg and 1511.6 kg for males.
The average male giraffe weighs 1191.8 (973–1395) kg.
The average female giraffe weighs 828.4 (703–950) kg.
Pelage is short, with a highly characteristic pattern of large, irregularly shaped, dark patches separated by a network of light-colored bands. This pattern, which extends from the chin to the extremities, is mostly brown to almost black. All giraffe network patterns were the product of the interaction between two different genetically controlled point-forming systems through which light spots never occur in isolation, whereas dark spots are always isolated unless clustered within a single ‘island’ of the ground color.
Leucistic Giraffes have been recorded (e.g. Tarangire N. P.and Rukwa in Tanzania, and Masai Mara in Kenya. The individuals in Tarangire N. P. were predominantly white, though they had regular brown coloration on the lower legs and some black markings on the upper body.
Colour and pattern also vary individually, being unique to each Giraffe (although local lineage characteristics can sometimes be recognized). Overall patterns, especially the dark patches, generally tend to darken with age. Towards the hooves, the limbs are generally lighter, but there are regional distinctions in the extent of patterned or unpatterned “socks”. The skin pigmentation is uniformly dark grey. Tail with a black terminal tuft. There are no compound odoriferous glands. Two pairs of inguinal nipples. The skull is long, sometimes more than 700 mm, and is characterized by ossicones that look like horns but are not.