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- Domestic camels are maintained in a semi-wild state.
- Obtain food from wild vegetation, water from humans.
- Unguarded camels will return to a familiar well.
- Wild camels extremely shy
- Acute eyesight allows them to spot danger 2-3 miles away and flee
- Browse or graze 6-8 hours and chew cud another 6-8 hours each day.
- Constant work required to maintain health on low-nutrient desert plant life.
- Previously, migrated seasonally to green pastures.
- Movements now curtailed by human settlements.
- Form small groups of ~6 (2-15 animals).
- Gather at oases and small springs.
- Rutting male stretches to hold head higher than a rival.
- Rutting cry: “blo-blo-blo"
Smell and scent marking
- Male rubs back of head against shoulders (occipital gland)
- Secretions tend to excite males
Agonistic Behavior and Defense
- Dromedaries may blow out (spit) cud when excited.
- Bactrian camels do not deliberately spit (may if abused).
- Little aggressive behavior except among males during breeding season.
- Adults may push with lowered head and neck.
- Canine teeth used as weapons.
- Extreme fights can result in death of both combatants.
With domestic species
- Integral part of nomad culture
- Domesticated by nomads 3,000-4,000 years ago
- Still important part of nomad life in the Sahara
- Provide meat, milk, hides, wool
- Females can produce milk for several years after birth
- Bactrian: 5 liters/day
- Dromedary: 20 liters/day
- Males used for transport and riding
- Easily carry 200 kg (440 lb)
- Can pull more than 1 ton with a wheeled cart
- Convex back allows camels to carry more than a horse.
- Load is limited by the weight it can rise with.
- Used in combat
- Used because of their ability to scare horses
- Camel smell spooks horses
- U.S. Army camel corps stationed in California in the 1800s
- Normal gait is a “pace”
- One foreleg and one hind leg on same side of body move forward together.
- Horses, dogs and bears can also “pace” but more often “trot” (foreleg and diagonally opposite hind leg move together).
- If necessary, can travel 150 km (93 mi) in 15-20 hours.
- Maximum speeds
- Up to 65 km/hr (40 mi/hr) in short bursts
- Up to 40 km/hr (25 mi/hr) sustained speed
- Domestic camels have been known to swim (observed in Australia).
A large calf nurses from its mother.
Weaning occurs at 1-2 years old. Nomadic tribes use camel milk to produce yogurt and butter.
Image credit: © San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. All rights reserved.
Gauthier-Pilters & Dagg (1981)
Tulgat & Schaller (1992)
SDZWA Library Links
Fact Sheet Index
Fact sheet index, San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance Library
Home page, San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance Library
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