A camel is a species of even-toed ungulate easily distinguished by the hump on their back. They are primarily domesticated in the present, with only one species living in the wild. As livestock, these animals provide utility by producing milk and meat. Their hair is even used in the production of fiber, and felt. Camels are working animals suited to their desert habitat. They are an essential means of transport for passengers and cargo, giving them the nickname “ship of the desert”.
Though commonly referred as camels, camellid is the more apt term for them, including not just the camel but all the other seven species belonging to the Camelidae family namely- llama, guanaco, alpaca, and vicuna.
List of the Common Types of Camel Species
There are 3 species of the camel found nowadays.
Wild Bactrian Camel
Physical Description and Appearance
Size: Length: 5.9 – 6.6 ft (179.8 – 201.1 cm)
Weight: 660-2200 lb (300 – 1000 kg)
Humps: Most of the world’s camel population have a single hump on their back, which stores excess fat. However, some like the Bactrian camel, have two humps.
Body and Coloration: They have long legs, a snout with big lips, and a recognizable humped back. The male dromedary camel has a big inflatable sac inside its throat called dulla. He often forces it out during the mating season to exhibit his dominance and draw the attention of the female camels. The dulla, long and swollen, resembles a pink tongue sticking out from one side of its mouth.
The body color of most camels is a light brown, becoming lighter closer to the legs. The Bactrian camel is several shades darker than most.
The only species in the wild are the wild bactrian camel found in the Gobi and Taklamakan Deserts in China and Mongolia. Most of the other species are domesticated, including the Dromedary and Bactrian camels, which are distributed in the Horn of Africa, Maghreb, Middle East, the Sahel, and South Asia.
In some areas where the camel was introduced by settlers or immigrants, they eventually went o to become feral. The most prominent case of this was in Australia, where cameleers from different parts of Asia, like Afghanistan, British India, and Egypt brought their camels to act as load bearing animals. Once motorized equipment was available, these camels were released into the wild, where they adapted to their surroundings and became feral. Currently there are over 700,000 feral camels in Australia.
Camels are suited to a life in the desert, preferring arid regions for inhabitation.
How long do they live
On average, camels live for 40-50 years in the wild.
What do they eat
Herbivorous and not-at-all picky, these animals eat dry leaves, twigs, saltbush, and thorns.
Camels are social creatures, greeting their fellow companions by blowing into one another’s faces.
They like to stay together in herds, led by a dominant male, while other males that have been chased out will form groups of their own called bachelor herds.
Though normally docile, camels will bite or kick if annoyed.
What eats camels
Wild bactrian camels have a single predator – the gray wolf primarily. As for domestic camels, they are sometimes attacked by big cats like lions and leopards.
Despite common beliefs, camels do not directly store water in their humps. They are reservoirs of fatty tissue, which, when metabolized, yields more than 1 g of water for every gram of fat processed.
Camels can withstand profound changes in body temperature and water consumption that most other mammals cannot. Their temperature ranges from 34 °C (93 °F) to 40 °C (104 °F) from dawn to sunset.
Their coats are thick to provide insulation from the sun, and their long legs act as a shield between their body and the warm sand, preventing them from overheating.
The mouths of these animals have a thick leathery lining called papillae, allowing them to chew thorny desert plants like cactus.
They have several ways to protect their faces from sand, including long eyelashes, ear hairs, and closable nostrils.
These mammals even have a transparent third eyelid that helps them dislodging the sand that gets into their eyes.
Their nostrils also can trap water and reabsorb it into their body. In this way, it helps in the conservation and storage of water.
They have oval-shaped RBCs and not the round ones seen in majority of the mammals. This allows thick blood to circulate and expand while rehydrating, helping continue blood flow when water is scarce.
Camels have large, hairy tails that help to swat away insects like flies and mosquitos.
How do they reproduce
During mating both the sexes sit on the ground. The male mounts behind his mate, ejaculating 3-4 times in a single session. They are the only ungulates to mate in a sitting position.
After a 12-14 months gestation period, the mother will find a private spot to deliver her young. Usually, only one baby is born, but twins have been spotted sometimes.
The newborn camels, called calves, can walk within half an hour, though mother and child won’t rejoin the herd until two weeks later. They become fully mature when they are 7 years old.
According to the IUCN, the wild bactrian camel is considered “critically endangered” or “CR” and has a decreasing population. Wild camels are among the most endangered large mammals, with fewer than 1,000 of them alive.
Camel – FAQs
1. Why do camels have humps?
A camel’s hump stores fat that works as a food reserve.
2. Do camels spit?
Yes, they spit as a form of defense when threatened. The contents don’t just include saliva, but also the contents of their stomach. This acts as a surprising assault on anything annoying them.
3. Are camels faster than horses?
No, they are much slower than horses, but they have higher endurance. Camels reach a speed of 25 mph, while horses have an average speed of 25-30 mph, and can potentially run even faster. However, when in hurry, the camels would increase their speed up to 40 mph.
4. Can camels swim?
No, camels are not capable of swimming.
5. Where did camels originate?
The camels first originated in North America, with the original specimens being as small as rabbits.
6. Do camels have hooves?
No, camels do not have hooves. However, there is a hard nail present in their foot that looks like a hoof.
7. What is a group of camels called?
A group of camels is commonly referred to as a caravan.
8. Do camels have tails?
Yes, camels have a short tail.
9. Are camels and llamas related?
Yes, they belong to the same family.
The camel has been a famous animal in human history, being depicted as a mascot for a cigarette company of the same name in 1913.
Camel beauty contests have been held at the King Abdulaziz Camel Festival in Saudi Arabia, where camels are judged based on several attributes like their humps and lips. This festival also includes camel milk tasting and racing.
In 2019, a colony of three humped camels was discovered in the Rub al-Khali desert. Of the several reasons speculated behind the occurrence of the same, genetic mutation was one of them.
Camels are mentioned in the Bible in the stories of Abraham, Jacob, and Joseph several times, depicted as domesticated animals.