Camelus dromedarius 
|Distribution of Camels worldwide|
A camel (from:
The word camel is also used informally in a wider sense, where the more correct term is "camelid", to include all seven species of the family
Three species are
|Image||Common name||Scientific name||Distribution|
|Bactrian camel||Camelus bactrianus||Domesticated; Central Asia, including the historical region of Bactria.|
|Dromedary / Arabian camel||Camelus dromedarius||Domesticated; the Middle East, Sahara Desert, and South Asia; introduced to Australia|
|Wild Bactrian camel||Camelus ferus||Remote areas of northwest China and Mongolia|
The average life expectancy of a camel is 40 to 50 years. A full-grown adult dromedary camel stands 1.85 m (6 ft 1 in) at the shoulder and 2.15 m (7 ft 1 in) at the hump. Bactrian camels can be a foot taller. 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). Bactrian camels weigh 300 to 1,000 kg (660 to 2,200 lb) and dromedaries 300 to 600 kg (660 to 1,320 lb). The widening toes on a camel's hoof provide supplemental grip for varying soil sediments.
The male dromedary camel has an organ called a
Ecological and behavioral adaptations
Camels do not directly store water in their humps; they are reservoirs of fatty tissue. When this tissue is metabolized, it yields more than one gram of water for every gram of fat processed. This fat metabolization, while releasing energy, causes water to evaporate from the lungs during respiration (as oxygen is required for the metabolic process): overall, there is a net decrease in water.
Camels have a series of physiological adaptations that allow them to withstand long periods of time without any external source of water. The dromedary camel can drink as seldom as once every 10 days even under very hot conditions, and can lose up to 30% of its body mass due to dehydration. Unlike other mammals, camels' red blood cells are oval rather than circular in shape. This facilitates the flow of red blood cells during dehydration and makes them better at withstanding high osmotic variation without rupturing when drinking large amounts of water: a 600 kg (1,300 lb) camel can drink 200 L (53 US gal) of water in three minutes.[failed verification]
Camels are able to withstand changes in
When the camel exhales,
The camel's thick coat insulates it from the intense heat radiated from desert sand; a shorn camel must sweat 50% more to avoid overheating. During the summer the coat becomes lighter in color, reflecting light as well as helping avoid sunburn. The camel's long legs help by keeping its body farther from the ground, which can heat up to 70 °C (158 °F). Dromedaries have a pad of thick tissue over the sternum called the pedestal. When the animal lies down in a sternal recumbent position, the pedestal raises the body from the hot surface and allows cooling air to pass under the body.
Camels' mouths have a thick leathery lining, allowing them to chew thorny desert plants. Long eyelashes and ear hairs, together with nostrils that can close, form a barrier against sand. If sand gets lodged in their eyes, they can dislodge it using their translucent
The hybrid camel, a hybrid between Bactrian and dromedary camels, has one hump, though it has an indentation 4–12 cm (1.6–4.7 in) deep that divides the front from the back. The hybrid is 2.15 m (7 ft 1 in) at the shoulder and 2.32 m (7 ft 7 in) tall at the hump. It weighs an average of 650 kg (1,430 lb) and can carry around 400 to 450 kg (880 to 990 lb), which is more than either the dromedary or Bactrian can.
According to molecular data, the wild Bactrian camel (C. ferus) separated from the domestic Bactrian camel (C. bactrianus) about 1 million years ago.
The earliest known camel, called Protylopus, lived in North America 40 to 50 million years ago (during the Eocene). It was about the size of a rabbit and lived in the open woodlands of what is now South Dakota. By 35 million years ago, the Poebrotherium was the size of a goat and had many more traits similar to camels and llamas. The hoofed Stenomylus, which walked on the tips of its toes, also existed around this time, and the long-necked Aepycamelus evolved in the Miocene.
The ancestor of modern camels,
The last camel native to North America was
- Camelops hesternus, the last true camel native to North America
Like horses, camels originated in North America and eventually spread across Beringia to Asia. They survived in the Old World, and eventually humans domesticated them and spread them globally. Along with many other megafauna in North America, the original wild camels were wiped out during the spread of the first indigenous peoples of the Americas from Asia into North America, 10 to 12,000 years ago; although fossils have never been associated with definitive evidence of hunting.
Most camels surviving today are domesticated. Although feral populations exist in Australia, India and Kazakhstan, wild camels survive only in the wild Bactrian camel population of the Gobi Desert.
When humans first domesticated camels is disputed. Dromedaries may have first been domesticated by humans in Somalia or South Arabia sometime during the 3rd millennium BC, the Bactrian in central Asia around 2,500 BC, as at Shar-i Sokhta (also known as the Burnt City), Iran.
Martin Heide's 2010 work on the domestication of the camel tentatively concludes that humans had domesticated the Bactrian camel by at least the middle of the third millennium somewhere east of the Zagros Mountains, with the practice then moving into Mesopotamia. Heide suggests that mentions of camels "in the patriarchal narratives may refer, at least in some places, to the Bactrian camel", while noting that the camel is not mentioned in relationship to Canaan.
Recent excavations in the Timna Valley by Lidar Sapir-Hen and Erez Ben-Yosef discovered what may be the earliest domestic camel bones yet found in Israel or even outside the Arabian Peninsula, dating to around 930 BC. This garnered considerable media coverage, as it is strong evidence that the stories of Abraham, Jacob, Esau, and Joseph were written after this time.
The existence of camels in Mesopotamia—but not in the eastern Mediterranean lands—is not a new idea. The historian Richard Bulliet did not think that the occasional mention of camels in the Bible meant that the domestic camels were common in the Holy Land at that time. The archaeologist William F. Albright, writing even earlier, saw camels in the Bible as an anachronism.
The official report by Sapir-Hen and Ben-Joseph notes:
The introduction of the dromedary camel (Camelus dromedarius) as a pack animal to the southern Levant ... substantially facilitated trade across the vast deserts of Arabia, promoting both economic and social change (e.g., Kohler 1984; Borowski 1998: 112–116; Jasmin 2005). This ... has generated extensive discussion regarding the date of the earliest domestic camel in the southern Levant (and beyond) (e.g., Albright 1949: 207; Epstein 1971: 558–584; Bulliet 1975; Zarins 1989; Köhler-Rollefson 1993; Uerpmann and Uerpmann 2002; Jasmin 2005; 2006; Heide 2010; Rosen and Saidel 2010; Grigson 2012). Most scholars today agree that the dromedary was exploited as a pack animal sometime in the early Iron Age (not before the 12th century [BC])
Current data from copper smelting sites of the Aravah Valley enable us to pinpoint the introduction of domestic camels to the southern Levant more precisely based on stratigraphic contexts associated with an extensive suite of radiocarbon dates. The data indicate that this event occurred not earlier than the last third of the 10th century [BC] and most probably during this time. The coincidence of this event with a major reorganization of the copper industry of the region—attributed to the results of the campaign of Pharaoh Shoshenq I—raises the possibility that the two were connected, and that camels were introduced as part of the efforts to improve efficiency by facilitating trade.
A camel serving as a draft animal in Pakistan (2009)
A camel in a ceremonial procession, its rider playingkettledrums, Mughal Empire(c. 1840)
Joseph Sells Grain by Bartholomeus Breenbergh (1655), showing camel with rider at left
Desert tribes and Mongolian nomads use camel hair for tents, yurts, clothing, bedding and accessories. Camels have outer guard hairs and soft inner down, and the fibers are sorted[by whom?] by color and age of the animal. The guard hairs can be felted for use as waterproof coats for the herdsmen, while the softer hair is used for premium goods. The fiber can be spun for use in weaving or made into yarns for hand knitting or crochet. Pure camel hair is recorded as being used for western garments from the 17th century onwards, and from the 19th century a mixture of wool and camel hair was used.
By at least 1200 BC the first camel saddles had appeared, and
Military forces have used camel cavalries in wars throughout Africa, the Middle East, and into the modern-day Border Security Force (BSF) of India (though as of July 2012, the BSF planned the replacement of camels with ATVs). The first documented use of camel cavalries occurred in the Battle of Qarqar in 853 BC. Armies have also used camels as freight animals instead of horses and mules.
19th and 20th centuries
France created a
In 1916, the British created the
In World War I, the British Army also created the Egyptian Camel Transport Corps, which consisted of a group of Egyptian camel drivers and their camels. The Corps supported British war operations in Sinai, Palestine, and Syria by transporting supplies to the troops.
The Somaliland Camel Corps was created by colonial authorities in British Somaliland in 1912; it was disbanded in 1944.
Bactrian camels were used by Romanian forces during World War II in the Caucasian region. At the same period the Soviet units operating around Astrakhan in 1942 adopted local camels as draft animals due to shortage of trucks and horses, and kept them even after moving out of the area. Despite severe losses, some of these camels ended up as far west as to Berlin itself.
21st century competition
At the King Abdulaziz Camel Festival, in Saudi Arabia, thousands of camels are paraded and are judged on their lips and humps. The festival also features camel racing and camel milk tasting and has combined prize money of $57m (£40m). In 2018, 12 camels were disqualified from the beauty contest after it was discovered their owners had tried to improve their camel's good looks with injections of
Camel milk is a staple food of desert nomad tribes and is sometimes considered a meal itself; a nomad can live on only camel milk for almost a month.
Camel milk can readily be made into
Camel milk can also be made into ice cream.
They provide food in the form of meat and milk. Approximately 3.3 million camels and camelids are slaughtered each year for meat worldwide. A camel carcass can provide a substantial amount of meat. The male dromedary carcass can weigh 300–400 kg (661–882 lb), while the carcass of a male Bactrian can weigh up to 650 kg (1,433 lb). The carcass of a female dromedary weighs less than the male, ranging between 250 and 350 kg (550 and 770 lb). The brisket, ribs and loin are among the preferred parts, and the hump is considered a delicacy. The hump contains "white and sickly fat", which can be used to make the khli (preserved meat) of mutton, beef, or camel. On the other hand, camel milk and meat are rich in protein, vitamins, glycogen, and other nutrients making them essential in the diet of many people. From chemical composition to meat quality, the dromedary camel is the preferred breed for meat production. It does well even in arid areas due to its unusual physiological behaviors and characteristics, which include tolerance to extreme temperatures, radiation from the sun, water paucity, rugged landscape and low vegetation. Camel meat is reported to taste like coarse beef, but older camels can prove to be very tough, although camel meat becomes tenderer the more it is cooked.
Camel is one of the animals that can be ritually slaughtered and divided into three portions (one for the home, one for extended family/social networks, and one for those who cannot afford to slaughter an animal themselves) for the qurban of Eid al-Adha.
Camel meat has been eaten for centuries. It has been recorded by
A 2005 report issued jointly by the Saudi Ministry of Health and the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention details four cases of human bubonic plague resulting from the ingestion of raw camel liver.
Camel meat is also occasionally found in Australian cuisine: for example, a camel lasagna is available in Alice Springs. Australia has exported camel meat, primarily to the Middle East but also to Europe and the US, for many years. The meat is very popular among East African Australians, such as Somalis, and other Australians have also been buying it. The feral nature of the animals means they produce a different type of meat to farmed camels in other parts of the world, and it is sought after because it is disease-free, and a unique genetic group. Demand is outstripping supply, and governments are being urged not to cull the camels, but redirect the cost of the cull into developing the market. Australia has seven camel dairies, which produce milk, cheese and skincare products in addition to meat.
The Islamic texts contain several stories featuring camels. In the story of the people of
What may be the oldest carvings of camels were discovered in 2018 in Saudi Arabia. They were analysed by researchers from several scientific disciplines and, in 2021, were estimated to be 7,000 to 8,000 years old. The dating of rock art is made difficult by the lack of organic material in the carvings that may be tested, so the researchers attempting to date them tested animal bones found associated with the carvings, assessed erosion patterns, and analysed tool marks in order to determine a correct date for the creation of the sculptures. This Neolithic dating would make the carvings significantly older than Stonehenge (5,000 years old) and the Egyptian pyramids at Giza (4,500 years old) and it predates estimates for the domestication of camels.
Shadda (cover,detail), Karabagh region, southwest Caucasus, early 19th century
Vessel in the form of a recumbent camel with jugs, 250 BC – 224 AD, Brooklyn Museum
Maru Ragini (Dhola and Maru Riding on a Camel), c. 1750, Brooklyn Museum
The Magi Journeying (Les rois mages en voyage)—James Tissot, c. 1886, Brooklyn Museum
How the Camel Got His Hump (From Rudyard Kipling's Just So Stories)
Distribution and numbers
There are approximately 14 million camels alive as of 2010[update], with 90% being dromedaries. Dromedaries alive today are domesticated animals (mostly living in the Horn of Africa, the Sahel, Maghreb, Middle East and South Asia). The Horn region alone has the largest concentration of camels in the world, where the dromedaries constitute an important part of local nomadic life. They provide nomadic people in Somalia and Ethiopia with milk, food, and transportation.
Over one million dromedary camels are estimated to be feral in Australia, descended from those introduced as a method of transport in the 19th and early 20th centuries. This population is growing about 8% per year; it was estimated at around 700,000 in 2008. Representatives of the Australian government have culled more than 100,000 of the animals in part because the camels use too much of the limited resources needed by sheep farmers.
A small population of introduced camels, dromedaries and Bactrians, wandered through
The Bactrian camel is, as of 2010[update], reduced to an estimated 1.4 million animals, most of which are domesticated. The Wild Bactrian camel is a separate species and is the only truly wild (as opposed to feral) camel in the world. The wild camels are critically endangered and number approximately 1400, inhabiting the Gobi and Taklamakan Deserts in China and Mongolia.
- Afghan cameleers in Australia
- Australian feral camel
- Camel howdah
- Camel milk
- Camel racing
- Camel train (caravan)
- Camel urine
- Camel wrestling
- Camelus moreli
- List of animals with humps
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Both the dromedary (the seven-humped camel of Arabia) and the Bactrian camel (the two-humped camel of Central Asia) had been domesticated since before 2000 BC.
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As has already been mentioned, this type of utilization [camels pulling wagons] goes back to the earliest known period of two-humped camel domestication in the third millennium B.C.—Note that Bulliet has many more references to early use of camels
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The camel was acclimatized in Egypt long before the time of Christ and was subsequently adopted by the Berbers of the desert, who used camel cavalry to fight the Romans. The Berbers spread the use of the camel across the Sahara.
Other trials of the camel were made in 1859 by Major D. H. Vinton, who used twenty-four of them in carrying burdens for a surveying party...All in all, he concluded, the camel was much superior to the mule.
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Nevertheless the military prowess of desert peoples impressed the Romans, who recruited large numbers as auxiliary cavalry and archers. In addition to providing the Roman Army with its best archers, the Easterners (largely Arabs but generally known as 'Syrians') served as Rome's most effective dromedarii or camel-mounted troops.
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He collected together all the camels that had come in the train of his army to carry the provisions and the baggage, and taking off their loads, he mounted riders upon them accoutred as horsemen. These he commanded to advance in front of his other troops against the Lydian horse; behind them were to follow the foot soldiers, and last of all the cavalry. When his arrangements were complete, he gave his troops orders to slay all the other Lydians who came in their way without mercy, but to spare Croesus and not kill him, even if he should be seized and offer resistance. The reason why Cyrus opposed his camels to the enemy's horse was because the horse has a natural dread of the camel, and cannot abide either the sight or the smell of that animal. By this stratagem he hoped to make Croesus's horse useless to him, the horse being what he chiefly depended on for victory. The two armies then joined battle, and immediately the Lydian war-horses, seeing and smelling the camels, turned round and galloped off; and so it came to pass that all Croesus's hopes withered away.
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A great deal of the work of supplying the troops on both fronts has been done by the Camel Transport Corps
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As evening approaches we are offered camel meat boats, dumplings stuffed with a finely chopped mixture of meat and vegetables, followed by camel milk tea and finally, warm fresh camel's milk to aid digestion and help us sleep.
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He cut the pieces very small and cooked them for a long time. I decided to try something a bit different the following night and cut the pieces a bit bigger and cooked them for less time, as I like my meat rarer than he does. This was a bad idea. It seems that the more you cook camel, the more tender it becomes. So we had what amounted to two pounds or more of rubber for dinner that night.
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As the meat can be dry, however, the Abu Dhabi Officer's Club, for one, serves camel burger with beef or lamb fat mixed in, improving texture and taste.
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Narrated Al-Bara' ibn Azib
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Somali pastoralists are a camel community...There is no other community in the world where the camel plays such a pivotal role in the local economy and culture as in the Somali community. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO, 1979) estimates, there are approximately 15 million dromedary camels in the worldPlain text version. Archived 2013-01-02 at the Wayback Machine
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General and cited references
- Camels and Camel Milk. Report Issued by Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. (1982)
- Ramet, J. P. (2011). The technology of making cheese from camel milk (Camelus dromedarius). FAO Animal Production and Health Paper. Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. OCLC 476039542. Retrieved 6 December 2012.
- Vannithone, S.; Davidson, A. (1999). "Camel". The Oxford companion to food. Oxford ISBN 978-0-19-211579-9.
- Wilson, R.T. (1984). The camel. New York: Longman. ISBN 978-0-582-77512-1.
- Yagil, R. (1982). Camels and Camel Milk. FAO Animal Production and Health Paper. Vol. 26. Rome: Food And Agriculture Organization Of The United Nations. ISSN 0254-6019.
- Gilchrist, W. (1851). A Practical Treatise on the Treatment of the Diseases of the Elephant, Camel & Horned Cattle: with instructions for improving their efficiency; also, a description of the medicines used in the treatment of their diseases; and a general outline of their anatomy. Calcutta, India: Military Orphan Press.