Interesting Facts About Camels - Ships of the Desert
Camels are desert animals that can endure extreme temperatures. Camels are very special in Arabian culture. They symbolize patience, tolerance, and endurance.
Camels are large animals that are 5.9 feet - 7.5 feet tall and weigh 660 pounds - 2,520 pounds. They have a lifespan of 50 -60 years.
Camels can survive without food and water for several weeks. Camels are used to transport goods across the desert. They are friendly animals and rarely exhibit hostile behavior unless provoked.
Types of Camels
There are two types of camels, the Arabian camel also known as the Dromedary camel and the Bactrian Camel.
The Arabian camels are domesticated whereas the Bactrian camels exist in the wild or can be domesticated. Bactrian camels have two humps on their back whereas the Dromedary camels have one hump.
Bactrian camels are native to the Gobi Desert in China and the Bactrian steppes of Mongolia. Domesticated dromedary camels are found in the deserts of North Africa and the Middle East.
How do camels adapt to desert conditions?
Camels store most of their fat in the hump. When there is a shortage of food and water, the camels convert the fat stored in the hump into energy. This adaptation helps camels to survive for up to six months without a meal.
As the camel uses the stored fat in the hump, the hump reduces in size. The hump grows back when the camel starts eating and storing fat again in the hump.
The camels have three eyelids, the upper and lower eyelids and a third inner lid that is a thin transparent membrane that the camels can see through.This membrane is called the "nictitating membrane." This inner membrane protects sand and dust particles from entering into the eyes of the camel. The eyes of the camel have long thick lashes that keep the sand from entering the eyes.
The camels can also close their nose to prevent sand from entering into the airways.
The ears of the camel are small and rounded. They have a thick growth of hair on the outside and inside to prevent sand from entering into the ears.
Bactrian camels have a wooly coat to protect themselves from the cold during winter. They shed their coat during summer to cope up with the heat.
Camels have thick, leathery lips. The upper lip is split into two, and each half can move independently. This makes it easier for the camel to get real close to the ground to take a hold of short grass on the ground.
Camels have two toes on each foot connected by a wide pad of thick elastic skin. The camels walk on the thick pad that expands when the foot of the camel touches the ground and contracts when the foot is lifted from the sand. This feature helps the camel to walk easily on the sand.
How do camels eat?
Camels are herbivores. They have 34 strong teeth that help them to graze. The mouth of the camel has strong muscles that help them to eat anything, even twigs with sharp thorns.
Camels do not chew on the food. Instead, the camels swallow the food and bring it back to the mouth for chewing when they rest. This process is called regurgitation.
Camels are social animals that live in herds. The herd is usually headed by a dominant male. Camels greet each other in a friendly way by blowing on one another's face. Camels make many different sounds like moaning and groaning, shrill bleats and bellows.
Mother camels hum to their newborn. Baby camels are born without humps. They can run within hours of birth. The mother and the child never separate and stay together for several years.
Camels spit when provoked. They throw up the contents of their stomach when they feel they are being threatened.
Tidbits about Camels
Camels have been used for transport as early as 1800 BC in Africa, Asia, and parts of Arabian Peninsula.
The first camel in Australia was imported from the Canary Islands in 1840.
The female camel is called a cow; a male camel is referred to as a bull, and a baby camel is called a calf.
The word “camel” comes from the Arabic word “beauty.
There are 160 other words for the camel in the Arabic language.
A large, thirsty camel can drink up to 200 liters a day.
Camels can run faster than horses.
Ship of the Desert
The camel is well known as the ship of the desert because it can travel long distances on the desert sand without food or water carrying heavy loads of above 200 kg. They have been used and is still being used for transport across the desert.
Since ancient times, camels have been used in many battles. The Persians, Greeks, and Romans have used camels in their many battles.
Camel's Milk - Healthy and Nutritious
Camel is not only useful for transportation, but also people in the desert eat camels meat and drink camel's milk. Camel's milk is used to make cheese and in the preparation of hot and cold drinks.
Camel's milk is good for health, healthier than cow's milk.
- Camels milk is low in fat when compared to cow’s milk
- high in vitamin C, five times higher than cow’s milk
- contains a high percentage of unsaturated fatty acids that is good for health
- reduces cholesterol
- boosts the overall immunity system
- rich in calcium
- easily digested
- camel's leather is used for making shoes, bags, saddles
- camel droppings are dried and used for fuel
- bones of camels are used to make jewelry
- furry wool is used to make blankets, sweaters
Camel Beauty Contest
Camel Beauty Contest
The “Al Dhafra Festival” held in Abu Dhabi is a camel beauty contest. It is one of the biggest contest held in the month of December attended by thousands of proud camel owners.
The camels are draped with gold and silver ornaments and brought out into the corrals where they are judged for big heads, wide necks, firm ears, broad cheeks and big whiskers. The judges look for long bodied big humped camels who have a great color and standing posture!
This festival goes on for about two weeks and also includes events such as horse races, falconry competitions, auctions and traditional souks.
The top ten winners receive prizes that include luxury cars and cash prizes ranging from Dh 18,000 to Dh 30,000.
In the Middle East, camel racing is an old traditional sport. In this race, UAE’s best camels run on the tracks of the desert sand. The camel racing season starts in October.
The Camel Racing Event takes place 45 km east of Abu Dhabi on Al Ain Road.There are two famous camel racing tracks - one at Al Wathba Camel Racing Track near Abu Dhabi and Al Maqam Racing Track just outside of Al Ain.
Special Robot Jockeys ride the camels dressed in colorful clothes. The Robot Jockeys have replaced children who were previously riding the camels during the races.
The robots are 2 feet high made of 35 pounds of aluminum and plastic. They have a right hand to hold the whip and left hand to hold the reins. The camel owners navigate these robots using a remote control and follow the camels by a car along the race tracks.
© 2014 Nithya Venkat