Scientists speculate to this day why certain animals have evolved to have long necks. Some animals, like giraffes and gerenuks, use their long necks to access hard-to-reach foliage. In contrast, birds like flamingos and ostriches use them to feed and observe their surroundings for threats.
List of 13 Long-Necked Animals
Neck Length: 8 feet
An adult male giraffe – or a bull – has the most extended neck of any animal globally, reaching 8 feet. Females are just a little behind with their 7 feet long necks.
They live in Eastern and Southern Africa, where prolonged droughts are common and food is scarce. Their long necks allow them to reach buds and leaves in high places where other browsing animals cannot. Adult males also use their extra-long necks to fight over mates by whipping their necks around to hit each other with their heavy, skull-like heads. Those with longer and thicker necks are likelier to win and enjoy mating rights.
However, because of their long necks, giraffes must spread their legs and kneel on the ground to drink water. This exposes them to predators such as crocodiles or lions that usually target their necks. They are also unable to swim because of the size of their necks.
2. Dromedary Camel
Neck Length: 6.6 feet
The Dromedary, or Arabian camel, is the tallest camel species worldwide, living in the Middle East and North Africa.
They have long, curved necks that have evolved due to their long legs. Their elongated necks plunge downward, and then rise to a small, slender head. The reason they have evolved to have long necks is so that they can feed on plants on the ground. If the camels had short necks, they wouldn’t be able to reach particular vegetation.
Neck Length: 4.3 feet
Llamas are livestock that live in Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, and Peru. As they are grazers who feed mainly on grass and similar vegetation, long necks come in handy as they would have to kneel when feeding if they had short necks. Its long legs are not practical in reaching the ground to graze. As a result, their necks elongated over time, enabling them to feed comfortably without kneeling. This adaptation also leaves them less vulnerable to predation while grazing.
Besides, llamas use their sturdy necks while fighting among themselves. The fights involve using their necks to wrestle one another.
Neck Length: 3.8 feet
Alpacas are South American, sheep-like mammals, often confused with the llama, which are notably larger. It looks like a long-necked camel with no humps.
While they feed on grass and eat 1.5 of their total body weight daily, these wooly creatures adore munching on tree leaves – which they can reach thanks to their long necks. Also, as alpacas are vulnerable to various predators, their long necks help them to spot enemies if they approach.
5. Common Ostrich
Neck Length: 3.2 feet
Ostriches are giant flightless birds belonging to the family of ratites, living in savannas and open woodlands. They are native to Africa and are the largest bird species on the planet. Their diet consists of flowers, fruits, and roots, although occasionally, they feed on insects and lizards.
An adult male ostrich’s neck contributes nearly half of its body height. Its remarkably long neck is flexible enough to turn in any direction and has 19 vertebrae. This ensures a 360-degree view of the surrounding area and lets it see a predator before getting too close.
Neck Length: 3 feet
Anhingas are water birds living in the warm regions of North and South America. It is a stalking predator that feeds on little water creatures like crustaceans, fish, and invertebrates, spearing its prey with the help of its bill.
It lives in shallow waters and often swims with its head above water. Thanks to its long neck, it is often mistaken for a snake, earning it the name snakebird.
Neck Length: 3 feet
The whooper swan is among the largest living species of swan. They are primarily herbivorous, feeding on leaves, roots, stems, and tubers of aquatic and submerged plants. Their long and flexible necks facilitate this diet. The length of their necks enables them to forage in water and on land. It also lets them spot predators coming from faraway distances.
Neck Length: 2.6 feet
Flamingos are wading bird species with recognizable pink feathers. Other notable characteristics of this bird include their long legs and “s” shaped necks. Their necks usually grow to 2.6 feet and consist of 19 elongated cervical vertebrae. This gives their necks a high degree of flexibility to the point where they can twist their necks backward to preen their feathers.
They use their necks to bend down to filter-feed on blue-green algae, brine shrimp, tiny crustaceans, etc.
Neck Length: 2 feet
Jabirus are long-necked birds native to Africa and Asia that are generally found near water. They are a member of the stork family.
One of their most notable features is their long necks. Males have four feet long necks, while females’ necks are three feet long. Their long necks allow them to reach into the water and snag prey that other creatures would not be able to catch. Jabirus feed on fish, amphibians, and reptiles.
10. Komodo Dragon
Neck Length: 1 foot
The Komodo dragon lives on the Indonesian islands of Komodo (where it got its name), Gili Motang, Flores, and Rinca.
It is the largest living lizard species and an apex predator. The diet of a Komodo dragon includes birds, invertebrates, and mammals.
Neck Length: 0.8 feet
Gerenuks are long-necked antelopes native to the dry parts of Africa. These animals have lengthy slender necks and legs. The name “gerenuk” comes from the Somali word meaning “giraffe-necked.”
These antelopes are herbivores feeding on bushes, fruits, and flowers. Their super-long necks reach plants growing 6-8 feet above the ground. As a result of reaching higher than similar antelopes, the gerenuks’ diet consists of succulent plants rich in moisture. So they don’t require grass or water to survive and can comfortably thrive in deserts and scrublands.
Neck Length: 0.7 feet
The scarlet ibis is a bright pink bird related to spoonbills. A native of South America, this wading bird has a moderately long neck and a long, down-curved bill.
Ibises probe their curved, slender bills into soft mud, sand, and shallow water to flush out prey when foraging. Their relatively long necks help guide their bills while searching for food. Its diet consists of crabs, crayfish, and shrimp. Occasionally they feed on fish, frogs, insects, small snakes, and snails.
13. Eastern Snake-necked Turtle
Neck Length: 0.6 feet
The eastern snake-necked turtles are inhabitants of the freshwater environments of Australia. They have the longest neck of all surviving turtles living today. Their neck is approximately 60% longer than their carapace, with females having longer necks than males.
They are members of the side-necked turtle family. Unlike most of their relatives, the “side-neck” name comes from the fact that these turtles can’t retract their heads into their shells when threatened. Instead, they lay their heads and necks to the side. They are expert anglers, and the size of their neck is helpful when catching fish. They hunt using the ‘sit-and-wait’ technique, waiting for prey to pass before striking and snapping it up.