Chester Zoo is among the most popular tourist attractions in the country, attracting visitors from across the world. It’s recently been the subject of a Channel 4 documentary, which has helped to attract an even greater footfall through the doors. While life outside of the zoo is largely on hold thanks to Christmas, life inside the Zoo is largely trundling on as normal – and this year, Boxing Day saw the arrival of a new animal – a giraffe calf, who, according to the Telegraph, arrived at just 7am.

The calf belongs to the Rothschild subspecies, of which there are less than 1,600 animals remaining in the wild, thanks to habitat loss and poaching. Much of this decline came about during the 1990s, when poaching experienced a slight boom – and habitat loss means that the survival of the Rothschild giraffe remains threatened to this day. Chester Zoo take great pains to co-operate with a range of conservation organisations across the globe, including the Giraffe Conservation Foundation, who conducted the first census on the Rothschild subspecies in collaboration with Chester Zoo’s giraffe Keepers.

Before paying Chester Zoo a visit in the New Year to take a glimpse at the new arrival, let’s take a look at some of the key features of the Rothschild subspecies – and examine how it first came to be discovered and categorised. That way, when you do pay the visit to the zoo in 2017, you’ll be able to wow fellow visitors with your encyclopaedic knowledge of all things giraffe!

A Closer Look at the Rothschild

The Rothschild giraffe was so-named after Walter Rothschild (an alternative name is the Baringo giraffe, after the Kenyan lake near which it was discovered). The status of the animal was actually quite contentious, with experts divided over whether it should be considered a separate species of giraffe or a subspecies. The truth was discovered in 2016, with a large and exhaustive study concluding that there existed just four different species of giraffe, with the Rothschild subspecies belonging to the Nubian giraffe.

What Does The Rothschild Giraffe Look Like?

The Rothschild is easily distinguished from other sorts of giraffe thanks to its distinctive pelt, which is covered with dark patches and beige areas, with a brown and orange colour overall. The markings cease at the top of their legs – where they shrink to the size of freckles, and get farther and farther apart as they spread down the animal’s legs. Sometimes, the spots disappear altogether at the kneecaps, below which the animal’s fur is entirely white.

The Rothschild giraffe can come with up to five horns compared with the two found on other species. The extra horns are typically found just behind the usual two, with an extra one in the centre. The neck of the Rothschild, like that of any other sort of giraffe, is built from seven vertebrae – the same number, curiously, that can be found in the neck of a human being.

How Did the Giraffe Evolve

The giraffe is an animal that’s quite unlike any other in the world – and so it might come as a surprise that the animal is closely related to the deer – and might have looked a great deal like a deer not so long ago. Predators, specifically big cats in Africa, rely on stealth to sneak up on their prey – and must outpace their quarry over a short distance. The giraffe’s long neck adapted so that the animal could see predators from further away, giving them a head-start in any life-or-death situation. In order to support these long necks, the animal would have adapted a body and digestive system to match. In this respect, giraffes share a great deal in common with cows: they graze constantly, and have four stomachs to allow them to digest enormous volumes of grass in order to support their massive bodies. Rothschilds tend to be slightly taller than other varieties of giraffe at up to twenty feet tall, with males being slightly taller than females.

Where Can I Stay?

If you’re not local to Chester, then you’ll need to find a place to set up base camp during your visit to the zoo. Fortunately, there are many high-quality hotels in Chester and the surrounding countryside. Carden Park, for example, is an enormous and well-equipped hotel, conference and wedding venue in Cheshire. It comes equipped with two golf courses, two restaurants and two bars, as well as extensive swimming pool and spa facilities. Consequently, you’ll have a place to unwind after you’ve seen the best that Chester Zoo has to offer.