Camel


Camel is one of the most widely known Domesticated Mammals and a Beasts of Burden used mostly in Dry and Cold Deserts. Fossil evidence indicates that the ancestors of Modern Camels evolved in North America during the Palaeogene Period  and later spread to most parts of Asia. Humans first Domesticated Camels well before 2000 BC. It is considered that they were by Frankincense Traders for travelling to long distances.

Information About Camel

They belong to the Hoofed Mammals group which are known as 'Even-Toed Ungulates' in scientific language. In Layman language it means those Mammals whose weight is borne about equally by the Third and Fourth Toes, rather than mostly or entirely by the Third. There are Two species of Camels - the Dromedary or Arabian Camel which has a Single Hump and the Bactrian Camel which has Two Humps. Their feet are well padded and insulated to travel in the Desert Sands.  Their Webbed Toes prevent them from sinking into the Sand. When walking, the Camel moves both feet on one side of its body, then both feet on the other. This Gait appears like a rolling motion of a boat. It is for this reason that they are know as the 'Ship of the Desert'. The average life span of a Camel is 30 to 60 years.

Scientific Classification

Kingdom - Animalia.
Phylum - Chordata.
Class - Mammalia.
Order - Artiodactyla.
Family - Camelidae.
Tribe - Camelini.
Genus - Camelus.

Physical Features

  • Camels come in every shade of Brown, from Cream to almost Black. A Camel's Thick Coat reflects sunlight, and also insulates it from the intense heat radiated from desert sand.
  • Camels are well known for their humps. A Camels hump or humps raise about 30 inches out of its body.
  • Camels have very Large Eyes, with a soft, Doe-like expression. These are protected by a double row of Long Curly Eyelashes that also help keep out Sand and Dust, while Thick Bushy Eyebrows shield the Eyes from the Desert sun. Camel's Ears are small but its hearing is acute.
  • The Camel has a large mouth, with 34 Sharp Teeth. They enable the Animal to eat rough thorny bushes without damaging the lining of its mouth, and can be used as biting weapons against predators if and when needed.
  • A Camel's Nasal Passages are protected by Large Muscular Nostrils that can be opened and closed at will. When a Camel twitches its Nose, it is Cooling the incoming air and condensing moisture from its outgoing breath.
  • They have Long, Thin Legs which have powerful muscles allowing it to carry heavy loads over long distances.
  • Thick callus-like bare spots of dry skin appear on a Camel's chest and knee joints when it reaches five months of age. These leathery patches help support it's body weight when kneeling, resting and rising.
  • The Camel's rope-like tail is over 50cm/19" long.
  • All Camels have a complex, 3-compartmented Stomach.  Although they are not considered Ruminants, they do Regurgitate and Rechew ingested Forage.

Weight - A fully-grown Camel can weigh up to 700kg / 1542lbs.

Height - A fully grown adult Camel stands 1.85 m (6 ft 1 in) at the shoulder and 2.15 m (7 ft 1 in) at the hump. The hump rises about 30 inches (76.20 cm) out of its body.

Geographical Range and Habitat

Most Camels are found in Somalia, the Sahel, Maghreb, Middle East, West Asia, Central  and East Asia. They are native to the Dry Desert areas of these regions. There are about 1000 Wild Bactrian Camels in the Gobi Desert in China and Mongolia. In Australia a Feral Population of about 1,000,000 exists in central parts of Australia. These have descended from individuals introduced as transport animals in the 19th century and early 20th century.

Behaviour

  • Camels are known for their Bad Temper where as in reality they tend to be Good-Tempered, Patient and Intelligent. They make a moaning and bawling sound when they're loaded up. When they have to rise to their feet they produce a grunting and heavy breathing. Camels are Desert Experts and are known for surviving for 5 to 7 days with little or no food and water, and can lose a quarter of its body weight without impairing its normal functions. They are able to survive because of their hump/humps which is in fact a Mound of Fatty Tissue from which the Camel draws energy when food is hard to find. When a Camel uses its hump fat for sustenance, the Mound becomes flabby and shrinks. If a Camel draws too much fat, the small remaining lump will flop from it's upright position and hang down the Camel's side. With few day's rest and plenty of food the hump returns to its normal condition.
  • Camels do not pant, and they perspire very little.  Humans start to sweat when the outside temperature rises above the normal body temperature of 37° C, but the Camel has a unique Body Thermostat. It can raise its body temperature tolerance level as much as 6°C before perspiring, thereby conserving body fluids and avoiding unnecessary water loss. They will not start sweating until their body temperature reaches 42oC / 107.5oF.  Nor does Heating Mechanisms kick in during the cooler nights until the internal temperature reaches 34oC / 92oF. Because the Camel's body temperature is often lower than air temperature, a group of resting Camels will even avoid excessive heat by pressing against each other.
  • Normal 'amble speed' for a walking Camel is 5kph/3mph; a working Camel will typically cover 40km/25 miles a day. Racing Camels can reach 20kph/12mph at the gallop. Dromedaries can acquire much of their needed water from desert vegetation. When water is available, whether fresh or brackish (salty), Camels drink well - up to 57 litres at a time. The kidneys of a Camel are very efficient. Urine comes out as a thick syrup and their faeces are so dry that it can fuel fires.

Diet

Camels are not choosy when it comes to eating, they will eat any plant that comes their way especially when there is a shortage of food. General Diet of Camels include dried leaves, seeds, desert plants, thorny twig, dates, grass, wheat, and oats.

Reproduction

Male Camels reach Sexual Maturity at the age of  5-6 years and Female Camels reach Sexual Maturity at the age of 3-4 years. During the Mating Season, Males splash their urine on their tails, which is flicked up and down, sprinkling the back and surrounding area. Male Dromedaries also extrude their soft palate, which hangs out of the side of their mouth like a red balloon. Copious saliva turns to foam as the Male gurgles, covering the mouth.  

During the Breeding Season, Males also become very aggressive towards each other, defending their groups of females from all rivals. Conflicts are often serious, consisting of snapping at each other while attempting to neck-wrestle the other to the ground. Suffocation of the loser may occur if a Male succeeds in felling his opponent with the rival's head between the winners leg and body. The main vocalizations include a sheep-like bleat used to locate individuals and the breeding gurgle of Males, while a whistling noise is produced as a threat noise by Males by grinding the teeth together.

Gestation period lasts 12-14 months. One calf is born, and twins are very rare. For Dromedaries, gestation period lasts 12-13 months, and one calf is born. Baby camels are born without humps. These start to develop when the calf begins eating solid food.

Colour Variations

Some Camels have colours varying from Dark Brown to White, which is a result of Selective Breeding.

Extinct Species

Camelops (Camelops hesternus) - Camelops is an extinct genus of camels that once roamed western North America, where it disappeared at the end of the Pleistocene about 10,000 years ago. Its extinction was part of a larger North American die-off in which native horses, camelids  and mastodons  also died out. This megafaunal extinction coincided roughly with the appearance of the big game hunting Clovis culture, and biochemical analyses have shown that Clovis tools were used in butchering Camels. Camelops hesternus was seven feet (slightly over two meters) at the shoulder, making it slightly taller than modern Bactrian Camels. Plant remains found in its teeth exhibit little grass, suggesting that the camel was an opportunistic herbivore and as such ate any plants that were available, as do modern Camels.

In Folklore and Culture

  • Camel features in many of the Folk Stories of India, Known as 'Panchtantra Stories'. These include - 'The Camel, The Jackal and The Crow', 'The Lion and The Jackal' etc.
  • The Camel has played such an important role in Arab culture that there are over 160 words for "Camel" in the Arabic language.
  • According to Sunni Islamic tradition, Camel Milk and Urine have Medicinal Properties.
  • Camel Milk is used as an Aphrodisiac in Ethiopia.
  • Camels were mostly used in combat because of their ability to scare off horses in close ranges, a quality famously employed by the Achaemenid Persians when fighting Lydia, although the Persians usually used camels as baggage trains for arrows and equipment.
  • Camel Hair is sought after world-wide for high-quality coats, garments and artists' brushes, as well as being used to make traditional Bedouin rugs and tents.
  • Camel Racing is a popular sport in India, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Jordan, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Oman, Australia, and Mongolia. Professional camel racing, like horse racing, is an event for betting and tourist attraction.
  Page Views: 6582