What Do Giraffes Eat? (Interesting Facts)

Whether they be in the wild or captivity, Giraffes will always eat something, right? The question now is what do they eat? Are they picky like other animals, or they eat anything they see? If you’re as curious about Giraffes as most of are, you may ask:

What do giraffes eat? Giraffes eat a variety of plant-based food. In the wild, they eat acacia leaves and twigs since they are rich in water and nutrients. In captivity, they can eat hay, vegetables, and even fruits. Giraffes are ruminants. Thus, it means they have four stomachs that can digest everything they eat.

Though giraffes are enormous animals, they only need plants and water to survive. Still, you may be interested to learn that they eat other weird stuff too. If you want to know more about it, then read on.

In this article, we’ll give you an in-depth take on the diet of giraffes, as well as their unusual treats and snacks. This way, you can understand the food and nutrients they need and how they eat.

Without further ado, let’s get into it!

Are giraffes vegetarians?

The short answer is yes. Giraffes are herbivores, and so they eat only plant-based food.

While these animals are vegetarians, they aren’t picky with the greens they eat. Giraffes can eat every plant-based food from leaves, twigs, berries, fruits (such as bananas), grass, and seeds.

Despite the vast options for giraffes, they still favor acacia and mimosa leaves among the rest.

Another thing to note is that these animals may only eat plants, but they eat quite a lot for a day.

With enormous bodies, giraffes need to eat as much as 60-80 pounds of twigs and leaves per day.

For this reason, they spend their time seeking trees and munching on leaves.

Also, giraffes are ruminants like cows. Thus, they have four compartments where all the food gets stored and digested. 

What do giraffes eat in the wild?

Giraffes have plenty of food choices in the wild. However, as I said, they favor acacia and mimosa trees among the rest. To give you an in-depth take, take a look at this list of food that giraffes eat in the wild.

Tree and plant leaves 

All kinds of leaf from trees and plants are food for giraffes. Since they need to eat pounds of food per day, they won’t be picky and eat what they find. 

Of course, giraffes still favor acacia leaves and mimosa leaves. In fact, they would even include the twigs in their food.

Tree and plant leaves take up most of their diet. Thus, they can go and eat only twigs and leaves the whole day.

Buds on trees and shrubs

Since giraffes feed on tree leaves and twigs, they would also include the buds if ever they find one.

It goes the same with shrubs, which they would usually find in the wild. Since trees are pretty random in biomes such as savannas, giraffes usually take shrubs if they find some while seeking trees.

Giraffes eat buds and shrubs only when they find such. Since these things aren’t as plentiful as leaves, they don’t take up much from a daily diet of giraffes.


Fruits and berries are more like treats and snacks than a regular meal for giraffes. Due to being ruminant animals, they often feed on leaves.

However, it doesn’t mean Giraffes would say no to fruits and berries when they find them available.

Like buds and shrubs, it’s not something Giraffes find all the time. Thus, it takes only a tiny part of their diet.

Now, since giraffes eat various plants, you may wonder if there’s something toxic for them.

Are there some foods that are toxic for giraffes?

In general, no food will cause any harm to them. Since giraffes are ruminants, they process food in the four compartments. Moreover, given the amount of food they eat, toxic plants aren’t something that can harm them significantly.

Still, you may want to know some food that may cause giraffes harm, but they keep eating such anyway.

Acacia trees with thorns

The most significant part of a Giraffe’s diet consists of eating with giant thorns.

Acacia trees usually have big thorns in their branches. These thorns repel animals that try to eat their leaves. However, it doesn’t stop giraffes from approaching.

To avoid getting poked, giraffes use their long tongues to go past these thorns and get the leaves. It’s something that only giraffes can do.

As a result, giraffes are one of the few animals that can eat acacia leaves.

Prickly pears

This plant is a popular one for giraffes despite having sharp spines all over it. Thus, while many animals stay away from such, giraffes keep on eating them anyway.

Prickly pears are beneficial for giraffes due to being a rich source of nutrients, especially during winter. Thus, despite the dangers of its sharp spines, giraffes continue to eat such nonetheless.

Bones of dead animals

Since we’ve established giraffes as herbivores and vegetarians, you may find this one a mistake. However, it’s true. Giraffes eat the bones of dead animals.

Giraffes chew on the bones of dead animals they see, and it’s what experts call osteophagy.

The bones of dead animals are rich in phosphorus and calcium, nutrients that giraffes don’t usually get from eating plants all the time. 

Thus, they must munch on these bones to compensate for their absence. Still, it’s not something to worry about, as giraffes won’t attack and kill animals for the sake of eating bones. They will only chew bones if they find one available.

Poisonous Euphorbia

This kind of plant is well-known for its poisonous latex. It’s extremely dangerous that it can lead an animal to death if eaten in a large amount.

Despite the dangers, giraffes still feed on them in small sizes, especially in winter.

Since they only eat a small quantity, it won’t harm, but it will kill parasites in their bodies.

In short, they eat poison to help themselves get rid of the parasites inside and outside them.

Do giraffes ever eat meat?

Giraffes don’t eat meat, and it’s because they don’t need to. As herbivores, the plants that they eat provide them everything they need for each day.

Moreover, a giraffe’s digestive system is designed for digesting plants alone. Thus, while eating meat won’t harm them, it also won’t do them any good.

Besides, giraffes don’t have any hunting and fighting instincts that most carnivores have. Thus, they don’t need meat, and they won’t ever eat such.


So, what do giraffes eat? Giraffes eat a variety of plant-based food. In the wild, they eat acacia leaves and twigs since they are rich in water and nutrients. In captivity, they can eat hay, vegetables, and even fruits.

While giraffes can find toxic food if ingested, it doesn’t do them any harm. Thus, they usually go for dangerous foods such as toxic plants and trees filled with thorns. They also sometimes eat bones of dead animals, but only when they find an available one.


Image credits – Canva

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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