What Are Giraffes Related To? (Complete Explanation)

Giraffes are one of the animals that stand out from the rest due to their massive size and towering height. Thus, in safari trips and the wild, we usually see them often and spot them easily. However, one thing you may note is that they are the only ones with that height. Thus, it may make you wonder if they even have any relatives in the wild. So, you may ask:

What are giraffes related to? Giraffes are related to the Okapi, and it’s the closest relative animal for them. The Okapi seems like a hybrid of the Giraffe, but it has a body of a horse and legs like zebras. Moreover, this animal has a shorter neck than giraffes.

Since giraffes don’t have that many relative animals, you may also wonder about their origin. As one of the tallest animals, it’s pretty interesting to learn where these animals came from ages ago.

In this article, you’ll read through several questions that can help you understand more about the Giraffe’s origin. This way, you can learn another aspect of their life and realize where and how they start to exist.

Without further ado, let’s get into it! 

What is the closest relative to a giraffe?

The closest relative to a giraffe is the Okapi or the Okapia Johnstoni. This animal has a similar body shape to that of a giraffe. However, despite being the closest relative, they don’t have the long necks of giraffes.

The Okapi also comes in several names. Some of these names are:

  • Forest giraffe
  • Congolese Giraffe
  • Zebra Giraffe

The Okapi is an artiodactyl animal. Moreover, these animals live in the northeastern part of Central Africa.

One thing to note is that this animal has that stripes of zebras in its legs. Still, they are more related to giraffes than they are to zebras.

Lastly, both the Okapi and the Giraffe are the only surviving members of the Giraffidae family. 

You can find both animals in sub-Saharan Africa. However, giraffes often live in open savannas, while the Okapi lives in dense rainforests.

These two animals have similar features such as:

  • Long, dark-colored tongue
  • Lobed canine teeth
  • Horns covered in skin


What did a giraffe evolve from?

Many scientists believed that the giraffes of the present time came from a handful of species scattered in sub-Saharan Africa. However, they came from an animal that looked like the Okapi.

In short, while giraffes didn’t come from an Okapi, many scientists believe they come from an animal similar to the Okapi.

Moreover, the ancestors of giraffes didn’t live in the open savannas as they did. Instead, these animals survived in dense forests like a regular Okapi would. 

giraffe evolution

Where do giraffes originate from?

Giraffes came from Eurasia, the largest continental area on Earth. This massive landmass consisted of all of Europe and Asia. 

In general, Eurasia includes the Northern and Eastern Hemispheres. It covers the British Isles as well as the Iberian Peninsula. It also includes the Japanese archipelago.

Thus, although giraffes are African animals, they nonetheless came from Eurasia, particularly its temperate area. Giraffes are believed to exist since 8 million years ago. 

Are giraffes considered dinosaurs?

Giraffes are not dinosaurs, and they are not considered as such. One thing that separates giraffes from dinosaurs is that they are mammals, while dinosaurs are reptiles.

Another thing to note is that dinosaurs lived around 150 million years ago, while giraffes lived 8 million years ago.

It’s worth mentioning that some dinosaurs beg comparison to giraffes due to their long necks, and these are the sauropods.

The sauropods are a group of dinosaurs known for their long necks and massive bodies. With such a similarity, it’s no wonder why many people think giraffes are dinosaurs. However, that’s not true.

If you didn’t know yet, the similarity of giraffes and dinosaurs like sauropods is known as the convergent evolution.

In general, what it means is that animals of different species can have the same features. They do so because their bodies adapt to the environment.

Of course, these adaptations take thousands and even millions of years to happen. The only thing is that two different species can look the same and have the same features.

Thus, the long necks of giraffes and brontosaurus may have a similar function because they need it. For instance, their long necks come in handy when they are reaching for food in tall trees. 


So, what are giraffes related to? Giraffes are related to the Okapi, and it’s the closest relative animal for them. The Okapi seems like a hybrid of Giraffe, but it has a body of a horse and legs like zebras. Moreover, this animal has a shorter neck than giraffes.

Giraffes also aren’t considered dinosaurs, although some of them may look similar. While they may look the same, it’s mainly because of the way their bodies adapt to the environment. Nevertheless, giraffes are mammals and not reptiles like dinosaurs are. 

In general, giraffes came from the relatives of the Okapi. Moreover, they originated from Eurasia despite belonging to sub-Saharan Africa.


Image credits – Canva

Share on:

I'm David, and safari has been my passion since I was a little boy - I grew up in South Africa. I love to help spread knowledge about safari, so let me know if you have any questions. Read more