Professional photographer Mark Drysdale has been taking snapshots of wildlife for 25 years – but even he was taken aback by the sight of a Masai giraffe with an extraordinarily misshapen neck while on a safari in Africa's Serengeti.

Giraffe Broken Neck 1 2015 06 25
Image: Caters

Instead of towering among the treetops, the animal's neck appeared bent into a strange zig-zag shape. A local guide explained that the odd appearance was the result of an old injury that had healed without medical assistance – and the remarkable survivor had been a long-time local resident.

"The animal had broken its neck whilst fighting five to six years before and had remained in the area – where there are no conservation centres or vets – ever since," Drysdale explains.  

Necking battles for dominance among giraffe males can be violent affairs, with opponents swinging their necks at each other to deliver blows with their horn-like ossicones (in fact, the "necks for sex" hypothesis suggests that these brutal necking battles are the reason giraffes evolved long, powerful necks in the first place). While these assaults rarely result in death, they can sometimes cause serious injury. 

Despite its crooked neck, the giraffe seems to be coping well, making do with leaves on the lower branches of trees that are still within its reach. "It continues to lead a normal life in spite of its odd shape," Drysdale notes in a Facebook update.

The largest giraffe subspecies, Masai giraffes (Giraffa camelopardalis tippelskirchi) stand taller that any other members of the giraffe family, with some males (those with necks intact) reaching heights of up to six metres (20ft). Found in the southern parts of Kenya and Tanzania, the subspecies is recognisable by its distinctive jagged-looking coat pattern.

Giraffe Broken Neck 2 2015 06 25
Image: Caters
Giraffe Broken Neck 3 2015 06 25
Image: Caters

Last year, another crooked-necked giraffe, a 15-year-old male, was caught on camera by safari company Sun Safaris in Botswana's Okavango Delta. In this case, however, the neck kink was more likely the result of a birth defect.