Can A Giraffe Clean Its Ears With Its Tongue?


Giraffes are known for their long necks and tongues, which can grow up to 20 inches in length. While giraffes use their tongues primarily for grasping leaves and twigs from trees, there has been speculation about whether they can also use their tongues to clean their ears.

Anatomy of a Giraffe’s Tongue

A giraffe’s tongue is a unique and versatile organ. It is prehensile, meaning it can grasp and manipulate objects. The tongue is covered in thick, sticky saliva that helps it grip food and pull leaves off branches. The rough texture of the tongue is perfect for stripping leaves from tree branches. Additionally, the deep purple color of a giraffe’s tongue is thought to serve as protection from sunburn as they spend much of their day grazing on trees.

The Myth of Giraffes Cleaning Their Ears

While it is true that giraffes can reach their ears with their long tongues, there is no scientific evidence to support the idea that they use their tongues to clean their ears. Giraffes have other methods for keeping their ears clean, such as flicking their heads or rubbing their ears against objects like trees or bushes. However, the image of a giraffe delicately cleaning its ears with its long, dexterous tongue persists in popular culture.

Ear Cleaning Behavior in Giraffes

Observations of giraffes in the wild have shown that they exhibit grooming behaviors that involve using their hooves or other body parts to clean hard-to-reach areas like their ears. They may also use their tongues to clean around their mouths and noses, but not specifically to clean their ears. This behavior is essential for maintaining personal hygiene and preventing the build-up of dirt and debris in sensitive areas.


While giraffes have impressive tongues that can reach their ears, they do not use them for ear cleaning purposes. Their grooming behaviors are more focused on overall cleanliness and hygiene rather than specifically targeting their ear hygiene. The myth of giraffes cleaning their ears with their tongues remains just that – a myth. Understanding the natural behaviors and adaptations of giraffes helps us appreciate these majestic animals even more.