The Mating Habits of Giraffes

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It once was thought that giraffes were not very particular in their selection of a mate.10 Recent research, however, has shown that the animals engage in elaborate courtship rituals to rival those of any mammalian species. By mid-October, or roughly at the time of the local pumpkin harvest, adolescent giraffes show a marked increase in a number of otherwise inexplicable behaviors. Perhaps the most striking of these is a complicated, prancing, dance-like step that some observers have compared to the fox-trot.11 Previously, this peculiar behavior had been attributed to a severe itching in the soles of the feet caused by fleas picked up from rodents in pumpkin patches. A study completed in 1999, however, definitively established that giraffe feet are impervious to fleas.12 Moreover, researchers have noted that this fox-trot behavior is most frequently observed in young giraffes when members of the opposite sex are in the local vicinity, some of whom have occasionally been observed to flutter their eyelashes and howl enthusiastically in seeming appreciation of the performance.13