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How Many Neck Bones Does a Giraffe Have?

Last Reviewed and Updated on June 26, 2022

Giraffes are one of the most fascinating animals on our planet, their long necks certainly set them apart from most. But how many neck bones does a giraffe have? With their necks being as long as they are you may expect the number is pretty high compared to other animals. But is this the case?

Giraffes have 7 bones in their neck

What may come as a surprise, giraffes only have 7 bones in their neck. This is the number that is seen in most mammals, with sloths and manatees being the only two exceptions with sloths having from 5 to 9 vertebrae depending on the species and manatees having 6.

Yup, that means a giraffe has the same number of neck vertebrae as we humans do, and the same as even the smallest mammals such as mice and bats.

Birds have more cervical (neck) vertebrae than giraffes do, as most birds have between 13 and 25 vertebrae. It is funny that a tiny bird sitting on a giraffe has more neck bones than a giraffe has.

How are their necks so long then?

If the length isn’t achieved by more vertebrae, how are their necks so long then? If you compare their neck vertebrae to those of other mammals, the giraffe has proportionally longer neck vertebrae.

Their vertebrae are massive. In an adult animal, each vertebra is over 11 inches / 28 cm long.

It is also interesting to note, that most elongation of the neck bones happens after birth.

The 8th vertebra helps with flexibility

Given that giraffes only have 7 neck bones, it is surprising their necks are as flexible as they are.

The giraffe’s neck vertebrae have the ball and socket joints like our hips have for example. This is one thing that makes their necks more flexible.

Another thing is their 8th vertebrae, the first of thoracic vertebrae. This chest bone is similar to the neck bone, and it gives the giraffe’s neck some extra mobility it needs.

Want to learn more about these cool animals? Read our list of interesting giraffe facts.

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