How Tall is Tall? (Some Really Tall Things)

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A Brief History

On August 3, 1997, the Sky Tower in Auckland, New Zealand opened, taking the title as the tallest free standing structure in the Southern Hemisphere.  At 1076 feet tall, this telecommunications and observation tower is indeed tall compared to most buildings, even skyscrapers and most other towers, but it is positively puny compared to the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, United Arab Emirates which at 2722 feet is BY FAR the tallest free standing structure in the world, the tallest building ever built by human beings.  So far…

Today we take a look at some the really tall things in the world, either now or in the past.  As always, feel free to tell us some of the really tall things we could have or should have mentioned.

Digging Deeper

Tallest Building in the World/Tallest Free Standing Structure/Tallest Man-made Structure Ever.

You guessed it, the Burj Khalifa is not only the tallest building for people, it is also the tallest free standing (no guy wires like most tall radio and television transmitter antennas) structure and is the tallest thing ever built by people.  Short of mountains, nothing in nature is taller, either.  Completed in 2009 and opened in 2010, it boasts 154 floors plus another 9 maintenance floors.  It also has well over 3 million square feet of floor space.  By comparison, the Empire State Building is “only” 1454 feet tall to its spire.  The venerable Empire State Building of King Kong fame was the tallest building in the world from 1931 until 1970, when it was surpassed by the World Trade Center (which was destroyed in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001).

Longest tenure as tallest man-made object.

The Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt, built in 2560 BC, spent the next 3871 years as the tallest man-made structure in the world!  Wow!  That is a record that will be darn hard to beat.  If any of our current tall buildings last even a thousand years it will absolutely amaze me (if I were here to see it happen).  At 481 feet tall, this monument to Khufu (or Cheops, please do not ask why there are 2 such different names for one guy) was obviously built to last (and last, and last…).  The Great Pyramid was passed up as the tallest building in the world by the Lincoln Cathedral in Lincoln, England, completed in 1311 and keeping the tallness championship until 1548.

Tallest Building in North America Not in New York from 1930 to 1964.

New York City is the home of the iconic skyscrapers, the cluster of the soaring buildings like no other city.  You may be surprised to know from its completion in 1930 until 1964, the Terminal Tower in Cleveland, Ohio, at 771 feet was the tallest building in North America that was not in New York City for all those years.  In fact, when it was built, it was the second tallest building in the world.  In those days Cleveland was the fifth most populous city in the United States and was known as “The Best Location in the Nation.”  Things have gone downhill since then, but Cleveland does boast a skyscraper even taller than the Terminal Tower, the Key Tower (as in Key Bank), which is 947 feet tall, which although quite impressive, ranks only as the 34th tallest building in the United States and the 165th tallest in the world (as of the writing of this article).

Tallest Dog.

They are called “Great” Danes for a reason, and that reason is their size.  The tallest of all these great dogs is Zeus, at least according tot eh folks at Guinness World Records.  This pup, the pet of the Doorlag family of Michigan, weighed in at 155 pounds and stood 44 inches tall on four feet.  Another Great Dane that previously held the record was Giant George, 43 inches tall and a hefty 245 pounds.  Giant George achieved television immortality by appearing on the Oprah Winfrey Show in 2010.  Oddly enough, there is no known record for the tallest Dachshund!  Of course, no Dachshund would ever care about such trivial matters, as they have more important things to worry about, such as that squirrel that gets a little too close to the house.  Unfortunately, there is also no record of the tallest Basset Hound, as researchers have not been able to get a Basset Hound to stand up long enough to be measured.  (They are tired…)

Tallest Man.

Robert Wadlow had a medical condition that kept him growing his entire life, reaching the incredible height of 8 feet 11 inches.  Had he not died in 1940 at the age of 22, he may very well have been the only 9 footer in human history.  Born in Illinois and having lived in Michigan, Wadlow weighed in at 439 pounds, and due to his great height he was actually quite lanky!  In 1936 he toured with the circus, but was plagued by difficulty walking most of his short life.  What brought down this Gentleman Giant?  His leg brace rubbed his ankle which became infected, and with a faulty immune system he died of the infection.  That is the “official” story.  Rumor has it some young guy named David with a slingshot…

Tallest Woman.

Zeng Jinlian of China was born in 1964, and lived long enough to become the only verified woman to reach 8 feet in height, exceeding that milestone by an extra inch.  Sadly, she died at the age of only 17 years in 1982.  Her parents were average height and her brother was only 5 feet 2 ½ inches at the age of 18.  Zeng, like many of the tallest humans, suffered from medical conditions, in her case diabetes and scoliosis.

Tallest NBA basketball player.

In basketball being tall is at a premium, and no NBA basketball player was taller than Gheorge Muresan, a Romanian that stood 7 feet 7 inches tall and weighed a slender 315 pounds.  He played in the NBA from 1993 to 2000, and scored 3020 points, an average of 9,8 points per game. He did manage to block 1.5 shots per game.  Another 4 NBA players checked in at 7 feet 6 inches tall giving Gheorge Muresan someone he could see eye to eye with.  As for the 7 foot 5 inch crowd, they also numbered only 4 players.

Tallest Major League baseball player.

The tallest of the tall timber on the major league baseball field is pitcher Jon Rauch, standing 6 feet 11 inches tall.  A Kentuckian, Rauch attended Morehead State University before being picked up by the Chicago White Sox in the 1999 draft, making it to the big leagues in 2002.  He last played in 2013, having posted a fine 43 wins against 40 losses record with an ERA of 3.90.  He also has the distinction of being the tallest major league player to hit a home run, his historic dinger coming off the fantastic arm of Roger Clemens in 2004.  He started his career at about 290 pounds which is his official listed weight.

Tallest animal, today.

No other modern day critter can look down on the Giraffe, with males reaching up to 18 feet tall, though females are a bit shorter at 14 feet.  (Still pretty darn tall!)  There are 9 sub-species of Giraffe, known scientifically as Giraffa Camelopardalis.  What is worse than a Giraffe with a sore throat?  A centipede with sore feet!  (Animal kingdom humor, you know…)

Tallest animal, ever.

More or less synonymous with “Big,” you might easily guess that the tallest critter ever to walk the Earth was a dinosaur and you would be correct!  The tallest yet found was an immature specimen of a Giraffatitan (note the name), one of the giant Sauropod type dinos that included Brontosaurus, Brachiosaurus and Diplodocus. Found in Tanzania (what is now Tanzania) in the early 20th Century, the fossilized remains indicate a height of between 39 and 43 feet tall, and an impressive weight of as many as 39,5 tonnes!  Being a juvenile, it is hard to say how big the Giraffatitan might have been as an adult.  The specimen mentioned here is on display in Berlin, Germany.  Other Sauropod dinosaurs were probably actually bigger than Giraffatitan, notably one called Argentinosaurus, but all those that are probably bigger (heavier and possibly taller as well) have only been found in partial skeletons, making exact measurements difficult.  Argentinosaurus may have broken the scale at 73 tonnes, and another tall candidate, called Patagotitan, was found in Argentina in 2014.  This whopper, of the aptly named Titanosaur family of Sauropods, may have been 66 feet tall and weighed 77 tonnes!  (Note: For some reason the big meat-eating dinosaurs such as Tyrannosaurs were measured height-wise at the hip instead of where their head would be when upright.  T-Rex came in at 12 feet at the hip, while the larger Spinosaurus stood 14 feet high at the hip.)

Tallest Horse.

This one is easy!  I do not need to do research to “know” that the Trojan Horse was the tallest!  Just kidding.  The tallest real life horse was a Belgian draft horse, a gelding that lived in Michigan.  Big Jake was big, standing 82.75 inches tall (or 20+ hands) and weighing 2600 pounds, which is pretty slim for such an enormous horse.  Of course, he needs a lot of food and is often said to “eat like a horse!”  He downs a bale and a half of hay and 40 quarts of oats daily.  A horse’s height is measured at “the withers,” which is the shoulder, the distance being from the ground near the front hoof.  A “hand” is 4 inches.  The heaviest horse ever weighed an impressive 3200 pounds and was also of the Belgian breed.

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Historical Evidence

For more information, please see…

DK.  Dinosaurs: A Visual Encyclopedia.  DK, 2018.

Guinness World Records.  Guinness World Records 2020.  Guinness World Records, 2019.

The featured image in this article, a photograph by Marco Klapper of Sky Tower lit in red and green, is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.  This image was originally posted to Flickr by mklapper at (archive).  It was reviewed on  by FlickreviewR 2 and was confirmed to be licensed under the terms of the cc-by-2.0.


About Author

Major Dan is a retired veteran of the United States Marine Corps. He served during the Cold War and has traveled to many countries around the world. Prior to his military service, he graduated from Cleveland State University, having majored in sociology. Following his military service, he worked as a police officer eventually earning the rank of captain prior to his retirement.