The human species has been domesticating animals for centuries. Large herbivores, like the horse and cow have been routinely domesticated and used for transportation.
Most commonly, horses have been trained to both ride and drive. While cows can be ridden, they make better work animals and have been used as such throughout history.
But what about giraffes? Can you ride a giraffe?
While a giraffe could physically carry a human, their unique body type makes them very difficult to ride. Due to this, and the fact that they are not domesticated, no studies have been done to determine whether it would be safe for a human to ride a giraffe.
Theoretically it is possible. In the 1950’s a man in the Chipperfield’s Circus was said to have trained a giraffe to ride.
Let’s take a look at what that process would look like in theory.
Steps to Training a Giraffe to Ride
Keep in mind, all of these steps are theoretical. I’ve used theories similar to what you would need to do if you were teaching a wild horse to ride, something I have quite a lot of experience with.
1. Buy a Giraffe
The first, and most difficult step would be to buy a giraffe. Wild giraffes aren’t going to let you get close to them (nor should you try).
The first step in this hypothetical process of riding a giraffe would be to buy a giraffe. Preferably a baby that you could raise.
Due to the status of a giraffe as a wild animal, in the United States they are classified as exotics. While you can own them many states would require a permit.
On top of that, you would need appropriate feed and housing.
2. Gentle or Domesticate the Giraffe
Once you have your giraffe, the next step to teach it to ride would be to gentle it. It needs to learn basic things, the first of which is to be extremely comfortable around the handler.
Next, you will have to teach the giraffe to follow basic commands. The most important of which is to walk up next to some kind of steps or ramp so that you can even get up high enough to his back.
3. Teach the Giraffe to Ride
Even more difficult than the first two steps, you would then have to teach the giraffe to ride. Things must be considered like how will you steer the giraffe, how will you sit on it, etc.
Some type of custom giraffe bridle would need to be fashioned. While a saddle isn’t necessary to ride any animal, it sure makes things easier.
Due to the shape of a giraffe’s back, in order to ride one, you would need to build a custom saddle. One that not only fits and is stable on the animal, but also holds you in a comfortable position.
Dangers of Riding a Giraffe
Riding any animal, including horses, can be dangerous. Riding a giraffe would be extremely dangerous for a variety of reasons.
1. Risk of Falling
The first risk most people would think of is the risk of falling. This is, in fact, a big concern.
The average height of a giraffe is 15-20 feet tall. The San Diego Zoo says a giraffe’s neck itself is about 6′ long. That puts the rider 9 to 14 feet above ground if no saddle is used.
A fall from that height would be almost as bad as falling from the roof of a house. When you consider the potential for falling at speed (while the giraffe is running), or getting stepped on, the danger risk is even greater.
2. Injuring the Animal
When we think about riding any animal we need to consider not only the danger to ourselves, but also any dangers to the animal.
For any beast of burden, it is important that the animal be old enough to support the work being asked of them. Riding baby animals of any species is cruel and unethical.
In horses, particularly performance horses, x-rays are even sometimes taken of the bones to be sure the horse is done growing before beginning work.
With a giraffe, one would need to work very closely with a veterinarian to make sure that training for riding does not begin too early.
We covered falling above but this one stands out on its own. Any time you are working with large animals, severe or even fatal accidents are possible.
Anyone attempting to work with a giraffe and teach it to ride is taking their life in their own hands. There are so many things that could go wrong even if you think you are doing everything right.
Should You Train a Giraffe to Ride
While training a giraffe to ride is theoretically possible, it is not something that should be attempted by anyone.
Wildlife conservationists dedicate their lives to making sure the wild animals in their care receive the most natural life possible, even when the animals must be in captivity.
Riding giraffes is neither natural nor safe and should not be attempted by anyone. Giraffes are not anatomically suited for riding.
If you want to ride something fun or exotic, you would be far better off buying a cow and teaching it to ride. They are easier to find, less overhead to keep and maintain, and already domesticated making the work that much easier.