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The Kinky Truth About Giraffe Sex. (Yep, We’re Going There.)

Strap in, folks: We’re about to take your giraffe knowledge to new heights. A new study by veterinary scholars Lynette Hart and Benjamin Hart revealed some surprising findings about the intricacies of giraffe sex. Spoiler alert: it’s way weirder than we expected. And it involves airborne pee.

Apparently, male giraffes need to investigate female giraffes’ pee to determine whether or not the female is fertile and ready to mate. So, the male will gently nudge her genitalia (how polite!), and if she’s interested, she’ll step out into a power stance — and urinate.

This is where things get interesting. To properly investigate the female’s sexual readiness, the male can’t just look at the pee, or trust her judgment. He has to do a taste test. The female giraffe pees straight into his mouth for approximately five seconds. Meanwhile, he curls his upper lip, reveals his teeth, and takes deep breaths.

The behavior may look creepy, but it’s actually pretty common in the animal kingdom. It’s known as the “flehmen response,” and it involves inhaling scents into a special organ situated in the roof of the mouth. This grants animals an unparalleled ability to gather information about the environment around them—and their potential mate’s sexy hormones. 

A male giraffe moves in for a drink. Image by Chris Dennis Rosenberg/Getty

Plenty of other animal species exhibit crazy courtship behaviors. Some even engage in similar pee-sniffing foreplay — it’s just that most usually let the urine hit the ground first. Male giraffes, however, can’t do that because they’re too tall. Their heads and necks are too uniquely shaped to get a good sniff at ground level. So, the Harts explains in the study, they have to taste-test instead. 

So, there you have it. Next time you get the opportunity to observe giraffes up-close, keep an eye out for males following females around with open mouths. Just know that it’s not necessarily the lady giraffe’s beauty that’s making their jaws drop.

Maybe one day we’ll see Tinder for giraffes, where they can swipe right on potential mates and skip the whole urine-drinking process. Until then, let’s hope they don’t start recommending this technique to humans looking for love. 

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