While my current job, working for Atomic Gurus, is simply to be a placeholder image until trainers upload their own profile pics, humans have interacted with giraffes for millennia.
“How the giraffe got its height has been the subject of various African folktales, including one from eastern Africa which explains that the giraffe grew tall from eating too many magic herbs. Giraffes were depicted in art throughout the African continent, including that of the Kiffians, Egyptians and Kushites. The Kiffians were responsible for a life-size rock engraving of two giraffes that has been called the “world’s largest rock art petroglyph”. The Egyptians gave the giraffe its own hieroglyph, named ‘sr’ in Old Egyptian and ‘mmy’ in later periods. They also kept giraffes as pets and shipped them around the Mediterranean.
The giraffe was also known to the Greeks and Romans, who believed that it was an unnatural hybrid of a camel and a leopard and called it camelopardalis. The giraffe was among the many animals collected and displayed by the Romans. The first one in Rome was brought in by Julius Caesar in 46 BC and exhibited to the public. With the fall of the Western Roman Empire, the housing of giraffes in Europe declined. During the Middle Ages, giraffes were known to Europeans through contact with the Arabs, who revered the giraffe for its peculiar appearance.
Individual captive giraffes were given celebrity status throughout history. In 1414, a giraffe was shipped from Malindi to Bengal. It was then taken to China by explorer Zheng He and placed in a Ming dynasty zoo. The animal was a source of fascination for the Chinese people, who associated it with the mythical Qilin. The Medici giraffe was a giraffe presented to Lorenzo de’ Medici in 1486. It caused a great stir on its arrival in Florence. Zarafa, another famous giraffe, was brought from Egypt to Paris in the early 19th century as a gift from Muhammad Ali of Egypt to Charles X of France. A sensation, the giraffe was the subject of numerous memorabilia or “giraffanalia”
Giraffes continue to have a presence in modern culture. Salvador Dalí depicted them with burning manes in some of his surrealist paintings. Dali considered the giraffe to be a symbol of masculinity, and a flaming giraffe was meant to be a “masculine cosmic apocalyptic monster”. Several children’s books feature the giraffe, including David A. Ufer’s, “The Giraffe Who Was Afraid of Heights,” Giles Andreae’s, “Giraffes Can’t Dance,” and Roald Dahl’s, “The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me.” Giraffes have appeared in animated films, as minor characters in Disney’s, “The Lion King and Dumbo,” and in more prominent roles in, “The Wild” and in the Madagascar films. “Sophie the Giraffe” has been a popular teether since 1961. Another famous fictional giraffe is the Toys “R” Us mascot, “Geoffrey the Giraffe” (no relation to me).
The giraffe has also been used for some scientific experiments and discoveries. Scientists have looked at the properties of giraffe skin when developing suits for astronauts and fighter pilots because the people in these professions are in danger of passing out if blood rushes to their legs. Computer scientists have modeled the coat patterns of several subspecies using reaction–diffusion mechanisms.
The constellation of Camelopardalis, introduced in the seventeenth century, depicts a giraffe. The Tswana people of Botswana traditionally see the constellation Crux as two giraffes – Acrux and Mimosa forming a male, and Gacrux and Delta Crucis forming the female.”
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