Masai giraffe in Kenya | Nirav Shah
Masai giraffe in Kenya

Published on March 07 2024
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All about the Masai giraffe


  • The Masai giraffe is fast! It can reach speeds up to 60km/40 miles per hour.

  • The Masai giraffe is tall! It's the biggest of all the giraffe species and subspecies.

  • The Masai giraffe has a long tongue, reaching up to 50 cm in length. To put that into perspective, its tongue is roughly 1/4 the height of Michael Jordan.

  • The national animal of Tanzania is the Masai giraffe.

  • Compared to northern and reticulated male giraffes, the Masai's ossicones are small. Sorry, guys!

  • Roughly 32,000 are thought to be left in existence. It it classified as vulnerable by the IUCN.

The Masai giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis tippelskirchi), also known as the Kilimanjaro giraffe, is one of the nine giraffe subspecies recognized by IUCN (the International Union for Conservation of Nature). What makes the Masai giraffe stand out from other giraffe subspecies are its spots, which have jagged edges and are irregular in shape. It is also the tallest of all giraffe subspecies, making it the tallest land animal. An estimated 32,000 are thought to remain in the wild, giving it a vulnerable status on the IUCN Red List.  

Masai giraffe habitat

The Masai can be found in central and southern Kenya and throughout Tanzania. This ungulate lives in herds of between 10 and 15 giraffes which are led by a superior, or alpha, male. Due to habitat loss and destruction, most giraffes now mainly are found in grassy plains and open fields. This may be a bonus for those wishing to easily spot them on safari but it also means they're easier to hunt by poachers.

The diet of the Masai giraffe

Giraffes spend roughly 70 to 83% of a 24 hour period eating. They are partial to trees and will consume the leaves, bark, twigs, flowers and fruit.

Masai giraffe Wikipedia

They even eat the leaves of the thorny acacia tree. Using their prehensile tongue and nimble, toughen lips, they're able to deftly and efficiently remove the leaves. Even if the odd thorn finds its way into the giraffe's mouth, its hard palette and leathery lips remain unscathed. Taller males will feed higher up on the trees leaving the lower branches to the females. The amount of moisture gleaned from tree leaves allows the giraffe to go for weeks without needing to drink. 

What are ossicones and how do giraffes use them?

On top of a giraffe's head are two bony projections of skull called ossicones. These nubs are covered by a thick skin and have dark hair on the tips.

Ossicones on giraffe head

Giraffes have ossicones from birth but they start out as virtually flat and gradually grow and attach to the skull over the next three to five years. These ossicones add heft to the giraffe's head, making for a heavier weapon during necking contests.  

Where to see the Masai giraffe on safari

The Masai giraffe is the most abundant giraffe species in Kenya. Those looking to spot (bad pun intended) the Masai on safari in Kenya can do so in Masai Mara, Nairobi National Park, Amboseli National Park, Chyulu Hill National Park and Tsavo.

In Tanzania the Masai giraffe, or national animal, can be found in many national parks and game reserves, including the following: Serengeti, Lake Manyara, Tarangire, SaadaniNyerereRuaha, Mikumi and Mahale Mountains.

Map courtesy of


If you'd like to see the Masai giraffe and are planning a safari to Kenya and/or Tanzania, please check out the following tour operators who can provide you with a custom quote and more information.


About the author

Has been on: 15 safaris

Your African Safari (YAS) is a safari-planning resource for anyone planning an African safari. It features information on over 2600 tour operators including company and vehicle descriptions, user reviews, safari itineraries and photos. It also features detailed information on 14 countries and 84 parks and game reserves.

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