Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Back to the Camel

I just can't seem to get over seeing a camel in our neighbor's backyard. I had to go back and get better pictures. This time she was standing up, but I wasn't calm enough to get a picture in focus. I know, I always have an excuse, it's either me or the subject or the camera.

Because of this new acquaintance, I've done a little background research into the subject of camels. Apparently the one-humped camel is called a Dromedary, is rather hot-tempered, and is found in the hot deserts of North Africa and the Middle East.

My new friend, the more mild mannered two-humped camel, is called the Bactrian Camel and is native to the cold mountain and high desert climates in Central Asia. Because of the variations of this climate, the Bactrian Camel grows a thick coat for the winter, which is shed in the spring. It can grow to over seven feet in height and can weigh up to 2000 pounds. Its life span in captivity is around 40 years, and is shorter in the wild. There are thought to be fewer than 1000 Bactrian Camels still living wild in their native range, and it is therefore considered an endangered species although there are perhaps 2,000,000 domesticated Bactrians. There are perhaps only 200 to 400 living in North America.

The Bactrian Camel was domesticated over 4500 years ago. It is an herbivore; it eats dates, grass, wheat, oats, leaves, bark, and shrubs. It will often eat plants ignored by other animals, such as thorny or salty plants. It will even drink saltwater slush in the absence of fresh water. It is well adapted to its desert life--the two toes on each foot spead apart to help it travel in shifting sands, and its nostrils can be closed at will to avoid blowing sand. It can run up to forty miles per hour.

Here are some interesting camel hump facts (if you are still with me). The humps contain fat, not water. The camel can go long periods without food and water. As the fat stores in the humps are used up, the humps lose their rigidity and can fall over to the side. When rigid, however, they make a handy saddle for those inclined to ride camelback.

Information Sources:

The Alaska Zoo:

Brookfield Zoo, Chicago:

Enchanted Learning:

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