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It is hardly possible to visit Sinai without seeing camels. Although Beduines do also use cars nowadays, throughout history camels have always been used for transport and much more. These animals can store enormous quantities of water and are in a position to bare long trips through the desert without drinking. Lets have a closed look:


Although the camel family is larger and more varied than most people realize, we would for now like to distinguish between the Camelus Bactrianus and the Camelus Dromedarius:

The Camelus Bactrianus is a double humped Bactrian Camel which inhabits the Gobi desert. Bactrian camels in Asia, there are only a few hundred left.

The Camelus Dromedarius is a single humped Arabain Camel. This animal - which is the one that we are describing from now on - is a special breed, used for riding and transport, although the name is wrongly used for the Arabian Camel. However, this camel is not known to exist as a wild animal. The exact range of the Arabian Camel will probably never be known. The species exists only in the domesticated state today in Arabia and has been introduced into other regions of the world.
The name "Dromedary" is properly reserved for the Arabian racing camel such as those used in the various military camel corps. These camels can travel 80 to 120 miles per day carrying a rider. Arabian baggage camels are heavier build and capable of carrying a 200 kg load up to 40 miles per day.

The Arabian Camel measures head and body length approx 10 feet, the shoulder height is about 6-7 feet. Weight: 1000-1500 pounds. The body is carried on long, slender legs ending in two toes beneath which is a broad, callous and elastic pad. Neck and head are both elongated. The upper lip is deeply cleft. Tails are short tail, eyes are heavily lashed,ears are haired, and nostrils are slit-like. Coloration of camels is fawn or beige the coat is smooth and shorter than that of the Bactrian Camel, but equally woolly.

Bactrian Camel

Dromedary Camel

Protection from Desert
For camels, everything is adapted for life in the desert. Feet are broadened to walk on sand. The huge feet of camels help them to walk on sand without sinking into it. A camel's foot can be as big as a large plate.

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  Eyelashes protect eyes from wind-blown sand. Nostrils close to keep sand out. Lips are thickened to withstand the coarsest of desert plants. Coloration matches the environment. Callouses are present on knees and other parts of the body that touch the hot sand when the animal sits down. Hump is a flesh mound not supported by bones. A reserve of fat (not water) is stored in the hump. Hump size varies with food supply and working conditions. They are able to drink brackish or salt water. Camels exhibit unusual tolerance for dehydration. Most animals perish when 20% of their body weight is lost. Camels survive a 40% loss of body weight without serious consequences. Heavy fur and the fatty hump serve to insulate the body, preventing body temperature from rising to the sweating point (the major cause of water loss). When water again becomes available, camels are able to restore their body water quickly; Camel, come to terms with the heat by letting their body temperature rise and regulate their heat by losing water through sweating and panting. They must also take advantage of any available shelter or shade; camels, for instance, will position their bodies in relation to the direction of the sun, so the smallest amount of body is hit by the rays of sun. If sand gets into an eye, a camel has a third eyelids to get it out (B). Like a windshield wiper on a car, this extra eyelid moves from side to side and wipes the sand away. The eyelid is very thin, so a camel can see through it. In sandstorms, camels often close their third eyelid and keep walking. You might say that a camel can find its way through a sandstorm with its eyes closed.(Planet Pets)
Desert winds often blow sand into the air. To protect their eyes, camels have long eyelashes (A) that catch most of the sand.
To keep sand from blowing into their noses, camels can shut their nostrils. When there is no sand blowing in the wind, a camel can open its nostrils (A) and breathe through its nose. When the wind starts to whip up the sand, the camel just closes its nose (B). (Planet Pets) A camel's head has built-in sun-visors to help keep the bright sunlight out of its eyes. There are broad ridges of bone above each eye. These stick out far enough to shield the eyes when the sun is overhead. The ears of camels are small to make it harder for sand to get in them.(Planet Pets)

Camels have played an enourmous part in the lives of many people for at least four thousand years, mainly because camels have the ability to live in places where other large animals could not survive. Camels can eat practically everything that grows in the desert, even salty plants rejected by other grazers. When hungry, they will eat fish, meat, bones and skin. Diet in captivity includes hay and grains plus vitamin and mineral supplements.
The stomach is divided into three chambers that are filled with a very bad smelling liquid. A legend says that, if desperate enough and lost in the desert, a man could drink this substance to save his life.
The camel is capable to drink one third of its body weight in 10 minutes. However, it will only do so after great dehydration. In these ten minutes a camel will grow from being very thin to its normal condition.



Life Cycle/Social Structure
During rutting season, the male protrudes a fleshy fold from his mouth and emits a loud, unpleasant roar. A single calf, rarely two, is born after a gestation period of 13 months. The calf can move freely by the end of the first day. The mother nurses the young for one year. Maturity is at 3-5 years. Life span is 30-40 years. Females may breed every other year.

Geographical Range
Fossil remains indicate that the camel family originated in North America. Only Guanacos and Vicunas may be found wild in the New World today. Llamas and Alpacas have been domesticated. Camels exist only in the domesticated state in Africa and Asia. The Arabian Camel has been successfully introduced into Australian desert regions while attempts to introduce them into southern Europe and North America have failed.

  Interpretive Information
Camels run like a giraffe with both legs on one side of the body moving simultaneously. The resulting rocking, shuffling gait gave rise to the term "Ship of the Desert". Camels have been used as beasts of burden for centuries. They are known for their loathing of men and forms of work and spit foul-smelling stomach contents when annoyed. Arabs utilized almost every portion of the body: tents are made of camelhair cloth, the flesh of a young camel is said to taste similar to veal, the camel's milk is nutritious and cheese is also made from it. The skin makes good leather. Dried bones are substituted for ivory. Dung is burned as fuel on the desert. In Arabic language, there are about 160 words for the camel.


This site was created in parts with information from Top Education and Planet Pets.  



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