This is a good question. For one thing, giraffes aren’t supposed to have long legs. When most people think giraffes, they think of large, hairy faces, but they also have quite short, slender bodies.
So, we’ll say the giraffe has short legs.
But, why? One obvious answer is that giraffes have longer necks than they should have. There are two things you have to understand about giraffe necks:
1. Short necks are bad
2. A giraffe’s neck is very, very long
Most people understand that neck-to-body ratio (neck/body length) is important for giraffe biology, but why is it only important for giraffes when they are at rest? Think about it: when someone is standing on one foot, they are on their feet for very little time, and for most of the time, neither body part is ever actually touching the ground. In other words, short necks and legs can be deadly.
When the person is standing on one leg, their hips are positioned over the shoulder blades, so the spine is at an angle to the spine (this is known as the “stance” and is where giraffes tend to have the longest necks). In this situation, the neck is at an angle that doesn’t allow the shoulders to actually rest on the ground or the neck to be at the right angle to allow the trunk to sit properly at its normal height. In order for this to work, the neck angles are often adjusted in a way that lengthens or shortens the neck, such as by lengthening, loosening, or straightening the neck straps.
This is an example for how to adjust neck angle to maximize strength of one leg at the expense of the other. But let’s break down the problem a bit, because this is not just a giraffe problem, it’s a big problem for most other animals.
Giraffe necks are designed for one person only
The neck straps on the necks of giraffes work in a completely different way from how human necks work. To shorten the neck, you must first twist the neck straps inwards. Since giraffes have extremely long necks, turning the neck straps inwards means you will need to rotate their straps backwards, which is why the neck and tail of the giraffe is so short. This twisting inwards prevents the neck from being able to rest on the ground completely!
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