The Gentle Giant


     The gentle giant is the world’s tallest animal, and today it is found only in Africa. This gentle giant is so tall that even a newborn calf can be six feet in height and grow 9 inches in a single week.  The giraffe may seem awkward-looking, but to see it in motion is to behold a certain imperial grace.  The only animal even remotely like it is the ocapi.  The giraffe is generally mild-mannered but has the power to render a deadly kick with it’s six-foot legs, usually aimed only at predators seeking to snatch it’s young.  Its cloven hoof may be as large as 12 inches in length and width, but the creature can walk only on hard firm earth.

     There are twelve species of giraffes, each distinguishable by their particular colorings and markings.  In equatorial regions where sunlight is direct and shadows dark, their spots and lines stand out strongly.  In cooler regions with softer light and diffused shadows, the markings are paler and gradually fad into white.

     Even with its long neck, the giraffe has the same number of cervical vertebrae as man—7.  It grows to be 14 feet tall and can weight 2,500 to 3,000 lbs.  Though this swift creature can run 35 miles an hour, it does tend to tire out quickly due to it heavy bone structure.

     The favorite foods of giraffes are the twig tips and leaves of the acacia tree.  The giraffe is equipped with long, hairy lips to protect against the stab of thorns and an 18- inch tongue to pluck the watery leaves; acacia leaves can consist of up to 74% water.  The animals oversize lungs compensate for the extra volume of dead air in the long trachea.  Without this extra air-pumping capacity, a giraffe would breathe the same used air over and over again.  And in order to drive the blood eight feet up to its head, the giraffe’s heart is exceptionally large and thick-muscled, with a blood pressure two or three times that of man—probably the highest in any animal.  Control valve and a special network of blood vessels in the head, work as a circulatory buffer to keep the blood pressure from hemorrhaging when the animal lowers its long neck to drink.  This also prevents draining when the head is rapidly raised.

     Well adapted for reaching up, but awkward in reaching down, in order for giraffe’s to feed on a bush, drink from a pool or lick salt in the dirt, they have to spread their front legs wide apart, making these creatures an easy prey for lions.  They are also vulnerable whenever they sleep lying down—a practice often avoided; they usually prefer standing. 

     Interestingly, a herd of giraffes spotting a lion afar off may walk toward it to get a better view, making the enemy hesitate to attack prey that is stalking him.  Few adult giraffes are captured by predators, but ¾ of giraffe babies die in their first year to lions leopards, cheetahs, crocodiles, and hyenas, as well as to disease.  This natural cropping helps keep giraffes numbers from outstripping the available food supply.  But it also contains a spiritual lesson for all youth.  Our young, need especially be on guard against enemy attacks.  Often when we overestimate our growing strength and maturity, the enemy of our souls can readily pounce on us with his deceptions.

     While giraffes possess powerful weapons of defense, they rarely do damage to one another.  Competition for females is done by males’ hammering each other with their heads.  Usually they will stop when they simply become tired.  Herds of around 70 gather in family groups of 4 to 20 individuals.

     One interesting point is that the giraffe rarely makes a sound, except on rare occasions when a cow will beckon her calf with a low moo.  There is a certain quiet dignity about these animals which should make us pause to ponder: Of what character qualities might the Lord be seeking to remind us, as we observe these majestic natural skyscrapers?

     What does God want to teach us through the giraffes?

     The following thoughts come to mind.

     “The words of wise men are heard in quiet more than the cry of him that ruleth among fools.” Ecclesiastes 9:17

     “God, who created everything lovely and beautiful that the eye rests upon, is a lover of the beautiful. He shows us how he estimates true beauty. The ornament of a meek and quiet spirit is in his sight of great price. Shall we not seek earnestly to gain that which God estimates as more valuable than costly dress, or pearls, or gold? The inward adorning, the grace of meekness, a spirit in harmony with the heavenly angels, will not lessen true dignity of character, or make us less lovely here in this world.” 

YI, May 6, 1897 

     “We have in our ranks too many who are restless, talkative, self-commending, and who take the liberty to put themselves forward, having no reverence for age, experience, or office. The church is suffering today for help of an opposite character --modest, quiet, God-fearing men, who will bear disagreeable burdens when laid upon them, not for the name, but to render service to their Master, who died for them. Persons of this character do not think it detracts from their dignity to rise up before the ancient and to treat gray hairs with respect. Our churches need weeding out. Too much self-exaltation and self-sufficiency exists among the members.” 

4T 340 

     “Christ never murmured, never uttered discontent, displeasure, or resentment. He was never disheartened, discouraged, ruffled, or fretted. He was patient, calm, and self-possessed under the most exciting and trying circumstances. All His works were performed with a quiet dignity and ease, whatever commotion was around Him. Applause did not elate Him. He feared not the threats of His enemies. He moved amid the world of excitement, of violence and crime, as the sun moves above the clouds. Human passions and commotions and trials were beneath Him. He sailed like the sun above them all. Yet He was not indifferent to the woes of men. His heart was ever touched with the sufferings and necessities of His brethren, as though He Himself was the one afflicted. He had a calm inward joy, a peace which was serene. His will was ever swallowed up in the will of His Father. Not My will but Thine be done, was heard from His pale and quivering lips.” 

TDG 263 

Barbara Monteiro