Camela are ungulate mammals native to dry and desert areas of Asia. There are two species, both of family Camelidae:

  • The Bactrian Camel (C. bactrianus)
  • The Dromedary or Arabian Camel (Camelus dromedarius)

Bactrian Camel

Both species are ruminants without horns, without muzzle, with nostrils forming oblique slits, the upper lip divided and separately movable and extensile, the soles of the feet horny, with two toes covered by claws, the limbs long, the abdomen drawn up, while the neck, long and slender, is bent up and down, the reverse of that of a horse, which is arched.

The Bactrian Camel is distinguished by two humps. It is native to Central Asia, and is an endangered species. The Dromedary (from the Greek dromos) has one hump, and is native to Western Asia and Africa. Still very common as a domesticated animal, it too does not survive as a wild animal in its native range, although there is a substantial feral population of about 200,000 in central Australia, descended from individuals that escaped from captivity in the late 19th century.

The camel was early used as a means of animal-powered transport both for riding and as a beast of burden. Camels were much in use for transport among nations in the East.

Both camels are related to the llama and alpaca.

The name camel comes from the Hebrew gamal, "to repay" or "requite", as the camel does the care of its master.

The Arabian camel stands an average of 2 metres (7 feet) tall, and the hump rises another 30cm (twelve inches) about that.


Which is Which?

The easiest way to distinguish the difference between a Dromedary and a Bactrian camel is to take a look at the first letter in their name. When turned side ways, a "D" only has "one-hump", making the Dromedary the one-humped camel. So when the "B" in Bactrian is turned in the same manner, it has "two-humps" making the Bactrian the two-humped camel.

Common Facts

Class: Mammalia
Order: Artiodactyla
Family: Camelidae
Genus: Camelus
Male - Bull | Female - Cow | Young - Calf
- Live in groups called herds
- Herbivores (plant-eaters)
- Munch on any desert vegetation
Gestation: 13-15months, usually a single calf, the calf is nursed up to 18months or more
Life Span: Up to 50 years, usually 40 years
Birthing Season: March-April
Sexual Maturity: Females 3-4 years | Males 5-6 years
Color: Ranges from white (extremely rare) - beige - all the way to almost black
Groups usually consist of a leading male and his females. Weaned males are kicked out of the pack and forced to wander solitarily or in bachelor herds


Camels are extremely intelligent beings, though also very stubborn. If they do not want to learn something, they wont. And if they feel like it, they will be very loyal about their work. A camel will not spit and kick at a person unless that person is upsetting them. Otherwise, the camel is usually a pretty docile creature. Many people believe that a camel will grunt when they lift to show their disappreciation for making them lift an object. However, when they get up they make grunting noises simply because they are lifting something that is heavy. If they really didn't want to lift the object, they simply would not do it.

Shared Attributes

Unique of the camel is their ability to conserve water. A camel doesn't pant and they will perspire only at extreme temperatures. The camel is able to raise their body temperature in accordance to their surroundings, much like that of a cold-blooded animal. They can go about 41-43 degrees F above their normal temperature enabling them to conserve fluids.

Camels have many ways that they are able to conserve
- They press up against each other when kept in large herds to keep from over-heating
- Can go 5-7 days with little or no food and water
- Can lose a quarter of their body weight without effecting them very much
- If a camel is hungry enough, they will eat thorns, bones, seeds, tents, and anything else to come their way.
- Store fat in their hump, not water. Fat converts to energy to help sustain energy  To think that they store water in their humps is a very common misperception. It, however, is not true.  If a camel were truly to have water in their hump, it would wave around and act extremely sloshy, not unlike a water bed.  Men would not be able to ride camels in that state
- If a large amount of fat is taken from the hump, it will flop over and become flabby. As soon as a camel stores more fat in their system, the hump will regain its normal size.
- Can drink up to 21 gallons (100 liters) in 10 minutes. If a human drank that proportionately to a camel, taking in account to a human's body weight and body mass, the amount of liquid we would consume n that short of a time would make us drown.
- The camels have uniquely shaped blood cells that allow them to store water in their veins. This blood cell is found only in the camel.
- 34 teeth are shaped to be able to crunch down on course objects without damaging the lining of the mouth
- Practice cud-chewing in a three-chambered stomach
- Nostrils can open and close at will, which serves two purposes. 1 - it allows them to cool incoming air received from its breath to turn it into moisture (thus conserving water) 2 - it protects them from breathing in sand
- Camel kidneys can process salt water

Camels also have unique ways of protecting themselves from the desert.
- Double layer of long eyelashes that filter out sand and dust
- Thick eyebrows shield the eye from the sun
- Broad, flat, leathery pads with two toes on each foot that can expand when placed on the ground to keep from sinking into the sand
- Camels grow fur rather quickly, and molt it even faster, almost as if it were being shorn
- Calloused knees and chest help support the camel's body when kneeling or laying down
- Powerful legs allow them to carry heavy loads for long distances. A horse may seem like a faster idea, but they require a lot of resting, especially in a place as arid as the desert. The camel is best worked for only 6-8 months out of a year. During this time, they can carry 450kg (990lbs), but usually only 150kg (330lbs) is packed.

Odd Tidbits

- Gained the nickname 'Ship of the Desert' by their rolling gait. They move both legs on one side at the same time, which creates a rocking movement
- The fur is used for coats, garments, artist brushes, rugs, tents... blah blah blah...
- Meat is a delicacy that is taken from young males. Popular in areas that are difficult to herd. Makes for tough chewing, but tastes near beef
- Milk is more nutritious than a cow's and is lower in fat and lactose, and higher in potassium, iron, and vitamin C. Best when taken fresh, in a warm, frothy liquid that is heavy and sweet, but it's an acquire taste
- Walking speed is 5kph (3mph)
- Workers cover on average 40km (25 miles) a day
- Racers can reach 20 kph (12mph) at full gallop
- Believed to have originated in North America, they crossed over the Alaskan land-bridge into Asia, and soon afterwards, into Africa where they split into two groups, the Dromedary and the Bactrian
- Llamas, Alpacas, and Guanacos are camel cousins
- Males can go months on end on a 'sex drive' to mate with a selected group of femaes from their herd...
- The female will leave the herd to give birth, and return a day later with a fully functional calf
- Before the Civil War, Congress tried out a Camel Military Corp. They herded 77 camels over to North America and tested them out somewhere near the Arizona desert. The camels were just about to be tested when the Civil War broke loose and ruined everything. A few of the camels were auctioned off, while others escaped into the desert. The escapees were shot by those who considered them pestulant. The mission was a complete failure.

The Bactrian Camel


Species: Bactrianus
Body Length: 10ft
Shoulder Height: 6-7.6ft
Tail Length: 20in
Weight: 1320-2200lbs
Habitat: Steppes of the Gobi Desert

A Rough Description

- Long, wooly coats varying in color rom dark brown to sandy beige
- Mane and beard hair on the neck and throat can be up to 10 inches long
- Two large humps
- Long and slightly rectangular face
- Domesticated in Bactria somewhere near 2500 BC. Bactria was near Turkmenia and northern Iran. They spread over to China where they were the main source of transportation along the Silk Road
- Wild Bactrians are considered endangered

The Dromedary Camel


Species: Dromedarius
Body Length: 8ft
Shoulder Height: 6.5ft
Tail Length: 20.4in
Weight: 900-1400lbs
Habitat: Arabian Desert

A Rough Description

- The short-haired version
- One hump
- Native to North Africa and the Arabian desert. Domesticted a long time ago... In the 1800's, it was introduced to Australia to be put to use in their deserts. They have long since returned to their feral state and are considered endangered there

Initial text from Easton's Bible Dictionary, 1897 -- Please update as needed
Below is a more extensive description of the camel

Other meanings for the term "Camel":