Written by: Adelaide Malvey
Accepting that the world is not as fantastic and magical as children want to believe is an important part of growing up. At some point in your life, your parents probably sat you down and told you that the tooth fairy isn’t real. Everyone has to go through it eventually, and unfortunately it’s time for another one of those talks. So pull up a chair, because I have some very bad news for you. Giraffes, a staple of zoos and safaris, aren’t real. They are a for-profit hoax and it’s time people learned the truth about these stilt-legged shams.
The Original Sin
In 1836, a dirty liar named William Cornwallis Harris (seen here) started out on the first recorded safari. As a somewhat accomplished trophy hunter, Harris sought to kill exotic animals for sport, and regale with his friends about the wild sights of Africa over drinks.
There is no greater achievement for a hunter than to kill an animal nobody has ever seen. Spectacular trophy kills like lions and elephants were known as far back as ancient Rome, so right off the bat, they were off the table. What else could he try to kill?
Antelope? Tigers? Zebras? Those are all well and good, if you’re alright with killing the African equivalent of elk, cats, and horses. The fact is, there were no truly unique animals from Africa that would really “wow” anyone back home. So he did what any degenerate would do—he lied. Drunk and intent on impressing his friends, Harris spun them a tale of this incredibly tall creature, taller than anything you’ve ever seen. It had legs as tall as a house, and a neck that’s even taller! Watching it fall to the ground was like felling a larch with only a rifle. It was much too big to carry back to the camp, but trust me, it was a beauty. His friends believed his story, and the only way to protect his honor was to keep up this lie. Using various animal parts, he threw together a taxidermy that matched his description, and from that point on, the giraffe myth was treated as fact.
The Beginning of an Industry
There’s money to be made in guiding Englishmen around the “harsh and unforgivable lands of Africa.” Giraffes became the bait for hunters everywhere. Much like the jackalope of the Great American West, giraffes served as a tourist attraction. “We’ve got all kinds of strange critters out here in Africa, you’ve got to come down!” sang the safari explorers to their friends back home. More and more money was put into maintaining this lie. The money made off of hunters coming for the mere chance of killing one of these giants offset the cost of improving the dummy giraffes. Now the linchpin of an entire industry, people needed to be convinced of giraffes’ existence at all costs. I know what you’re thinking. “Addie, what do you mean giraffes aren’t real? Are you an idiot?” And while I’m hurt by the sentiment, I understand. I was skeptical too at first, but the more I thought about it, the less convincing giraffes became.
Biologically, They Don’t Make Sense
The common explanation given for why giraffes’ necks are so long is that they need to reach the leaves on the high trees of the savannah. What people fail to realize, is that if an animal with a neck this long actually existed, they would be dying in droves from lightning related injury. Beyond that, this ridiculous “animal” supposedly only sleeps for 30 minutes a day. What kind of fool would believe that an animal of that size with a diet consisting of only leaves could sustain itself while running from predators?
Additionally, giraffes are theoretically placental mammals. They give birth to live young. However, there’s a logistical problem with that: Because of how their legs are connected to the body, giraffes are unable to crouch, so any offspring would have to drop to the ground at birth. A six-foot fall for a newborn calf with twigs for legs and a lightning-rod neck? Death is practically a guarantee. On top of reproduction being near impossible, giraffes don’t make a sound. Cows moo, cats meow, dogs bark. But tell me, what noise does a giraffe make? With a neck that long, what kind of sound could it make?
“But Addie, I’ve seen a giraffe”
If you grew up in America, the best birthday any child could hope for was at this nightmarish pizza parlor:
Chuck E. Cheese. They pioneered animatronics for children’s entertainment and if you were born post-Chuck E. Cheese, I’m sorry, but whatever you saw wasn’t a real animal. While the terrifying robotic monstrosities from our childhood left a lot to be desired in terms of realism, there’s another key player in the propagation of giraffe existence: Disney. Have you ever been to Disney World? You probably went on one of those “safari” tours at Animal Kingdom. After Walt Disney himself had fallen for the hoax, the only way to maintain credibility at his park was to pour what would end up being billions into improving the lie. Disney Parks have a budget of over 10 billion dollars annually. Most of that money goes into improving the park experience, and giraffes take top priority. If the truth ever got out and it became common knowledge that one of the most iconic African animals wasn’t even real, and that Disney has been lying to us for decades, the company would be in major economic danger.
There you have it. I’m sorry that I had to make the world a little less enchanting with this information, but the people deserve to know the truth. While this is most likely an incredibly sobering dose of reality, it’s better to know that the world may not be what it seems. Take a good hard look at what you were told as a child and if you find anything that doesn’t seem to add up, don’t write it off. Look into it. Delve deeper. Discover the truth. And next time you go to the zoo, take a really close look at the giraffes. You might just notice the seam.