Camels stand at just over 6 feet tall at the shoulder on average and can weigh anywhere between 660 to 2,200 pounds. Almost all of their physical characteristics aid in their survival in harsh climates. The most notable of which is, of course, their large hump(s). Dromedary camels have one hump, while Bactrian camels have two. These humps are actually fat deposits, which the camel can draw water from to stave off dehydration. Their thick fur, which insulates them from the intense heat radiated off of desert sand, ranges from light golden tan to deep brown. Their wide splayed feet are designed to allow them to walk on the sand without sinking into it. This is also why they run with a swaying gait, moving the legs on the same side of the body at the same time.
Habitat & Diet
Both the Dromedaries of North Africa/Saudi Arabia and the Bactrian that reside in central Asia live in very harsh, dry climates. They have evolved to suit their environments exceptionally well. Their eyes are equipped with a translucent third lid that can quickly remove sand, as well as long bushy eyebrows and nostrils they can close on command in the event of a sandstorm. Camels are herbivores and their entire diet consists of dry grasses and other desert foliage. They have thick leather lining in their mouth that allows them to eat tough, thorny plants without hurting themselves. In more lush environments, camels can draw enough water from green plants that they don’t even need to drink it directly.
Camels are social creatures that travel in herds of up to roughly 20 individuals. They have many vocal cues to communicate things like a potential threat, interest in mating, or as a way to locate other camels. They are led by a dominant male who will ward off bachelors from interacting with the females in their herd. However, the species is usually not territorial and herds will frequently rest and travel together. Males attract mates with a large pink sack that hangs from their mouth called a dulaa. Mothers will care for their young for up to three years.
Meet our Residents
- A 1,300 pound camel can drink 53 gallons of water in under 3 minutes!
- Camels are so well suited for extreme climates that they can tolerate water loss up to 30% of their body mass. 15% would be enough to kill most other animals.
- Camels once served various militaries as a counter to horse based cavalries. Horses were easily frightened by the strong, foreign scent of camels and fighting forces throughout history have used this as a method to disrupt otherwise powerful armies.
Status In The Wild
Dromedaries are largely domesticated throughout their native range, and as a result have an extremely secure population count. They still roam the wild and face very little incursion from outside sources, due to the harshness of their environment. Bactrian camels on the other hand, have much smaller ranges and are classified as critically endangered in the wild, and it is unknown how many non-domesticated two-hump camels are left in the world.