Camels are unique-looking creatures with long legs, a big-lipped snout and a humped back.
Camels were domesticated more than 3,000 years ago, and to this day, humans depend on them for transport across arid environments. They can easily carry an extra 90 kilograms (200 pounds) while walking 32 kilometers (20 miles) a day in the harsh desert.
The average life expectancy of a camel is 40 to 50 years.
There are two types of camels: dromedary camels, which have one hump, and Bactrian camels, which have two humps.
The dromedary camel, also known as the Arabian camel, exists today only as a domesticated animal. About 90% of the world’s camels are dromedaries.
There are two types of Bactrian camels: wild and domesticated. Wild Bactrian camels are much trimmer, with smaller humps and less hair, than domesticated Bactrian camels.
Most of the world’s camels are domesticated and live with nomadic people in desert regions. The largest camel population is on the Horn of Africa in the countries of Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Djibouti.
Dromedary camels is from 1.8 to 2 meters (5.9 to 6.6 feet) tall at shoulder and a body length from 2.2 to 3.4 meters (7.2 to 11.2 feet).They typically weight from 400 to 600 kilograms (880 to 1,320 pounds).
Bactrian camel is from 1.6 to 1.8 meters (5.2 to 5.9 feet) tall at shoulder and a body length from 3.2 to 3.5 meters (10 to 11.5 feet).They typically weight from 450 to 500 kilograms (990 to 1,100 pounds).
Camels have adapted to the hot, dry desert climate very nicely. Their thick coat also reflects sunlight, which helps to keep it from overheating.
They have long legs that also helps to keep their bodies farther away from the hot ground.
Often times it’s assumed and widely believed that a camel has a hump on its back because it’s carrying extra water. While this notion makes sense to most because they are walking around in the desert all day, the reality is that hump that you see on a camels back is actually fat storage.
A typical camel can carry up to 36 kilograms (80 pounds) worth of fat on its back at a time. The hump is actually storing emergency food so that when a camel is wondering around in the desert it won’t starve to death.
When a camel has to use the emergency fat storage it shrinks and falls to one side, almost as if it has been deflated. Once a camel has had a good night’s rest and found proper nutrition, the hump will restore itself back to the appropriate position.
Camels can survive a 40% weight loss and then drink up to 145 liters (32 gallons) of water in one drinking session!
When temperatures rise above 40°C (105°F), camels can survive for about 5 days without drinking water.During the winter, camels can survive 6 or 7 months without drinking water. During that time, they may obtain moisture from plants they consume.
Camels have a double row of very long eyelashes and a clear inner eyelid which protects the eye from sandstorms while still letting in enough light for camels to see.
Camels can also close their nostrils.
Their small ears have hairs in the opening to help keep blowing sand out.
Camels can run at up to 65 km/h (40 mph) in short bursts and sustain speeds of up to 40 km/h (25 mph).
Camels are diurnal and spend their day eating. They are very clever at finding food in their harsh desert environment.Each half of the split upper lip moves independently, so camels can get near the ground for eating short grass.These tough but flexible lips can break off and eat vegetation such as thorns or salty plants.
Camels are ruminants, like cows, and they regurgitate the food back up from their stomach to chew it again.
They make many sounds, including moaning and groaning sounds, high-pitched bleats, loud bellows, and rumbling roars. Mothers and their newborns hum to each other.
A friendly way one camel may greet another is by blowing in its face. Various positions of the head, neck, ears, and tail have different meanings in camel society, too.
Highly social, camels live in herds with a dominant adult male.
After a gestation of 12 to 14 months, a mother camel will find a private spot to have her young.Female camels usually only have one baby, twins are rare.
A newborn camel is able to walk beside the mother within half an hour. The calf has no humps but small peaks of hide, each topped with a tassel of curly hair to indicate where the humps will form.
Mother and young return to the herd in about two weeks. Camel calves nurse for 10 to 18 months, depending on species and the availability of food. They do not reach full adult size until about age seven.
Camels spit in order to surprise, distract or generally ward off a threat. The “spit” from a camel is more than just saliva.They bring up the contents of their stomach, along with saliva, and project it out.
Humans have used camels for their wool, milk, meat, leather, and even dung that can be used for fuel. Camel milk is an important food of the desert nomadic tribes. A camel can provide a large amount of meat for these people also. The camel’s hump is considered a delicacy in these cultures.
Camels and giraffes have a distinctive pacing gait in which they move both legs on the same side of the body at the same time (both right legs, then both left legs)
Bactrian camels, native to the Gobi Desert in China and the Bactrian steppes of Mongolia, grow a shaggy coat in the winter for protection from the freezing cold and shed the coat during the hot summer. These camels can survive a wide range of temperatures, from -29°C (-20°F) to 49°C (120°F)!
A feral population of dromedary camels lives in Australia. The camels were imported in the 19th century as pack animals and were used to cross the vast desert regions there.
Camels make a rumbling growl that was one of the noises used to create Chewbacca’s voice in the “Star Wars” movies!
The earliest known camel, called Protylopus, lived in North America 40 to 50 million years ago. It was about the size of a rabbit and lived in the open woodlands of what is now South Dakota.