Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.
San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance logo
San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance Library logo

Camels (extant/living species; Camelus spp.): Reproduction & Development

Camels (Camelus spp.)

Courtship

Male

  • Experiences rut in cooler / wetter seasons (greatest availability of food)
    • Peak rut in the Gobi: late January/February
  • Develops a dulaa (sack-like extension of the soft palate).
    • Triggered by rising testosterone levels
    • Used to produce a mating call: male blows through the dulaa to push it outside the mouth (looks like a red balloon) and uses saliva to create a low gurgle.
    • Size of dulaa indicates male's virility to female
  • Marks territory with secretions from poll glands (on back of neck, between ears).
    • Rub necks on any solid object.
  • Urinates on own tail and swishes it over its back
    • Urine contains female-attracting pheromones.
  • Exhibits aggression toward other males.
  • Becomes extremely active - collects a harem with as many as 10-20 females (Bannikov, 1976)

Female

  • Undergoes estrous cycle in breeding season: receptive 3-4 days, non-receptive following 10 days.
  • Bleats to indicate receptive.
  • Approaches male, presenting hind quarters.
    • Urinates constantly.
    • Flips tail up and down – short quick movements.
  • Dulaa also present in females but never extruded.

Reproduction

Reproduction

  • Only ungulate that copulates in a “sitting” position.
  • Reproduction rate: 2 year interval (minimum).

Gestation and Birth

Gestation

  • ~1 year (12-14 months).
  • No reports of twins.
  • Most young born at end of March / April.

Birth

  • Female becomes restless, and separates from the other animals.
  • Calf size dependent on the size of its parents. ~35 (25 kg – 52 kg) males larger than females.
  • Front legs of calf appear first - then head.
  • Calf’s drop to the ground breaks umbilical cord.
  • Only ungulates that do not lick and clean baby. Sniff extensively and help the calf find milk.
  • Mother is protective – won’t accept orphaned young (these must be hand-raised)

Life Stages

Infant (< 1 year old)

  • Precocious young – stand and walk shortly after birth.

Juvenile

  • Starts to eat grass around 2 - 3 months old.
  • Weaning at 1-2 years.

Adult

  • Reach adulthood: females ~3-4 years, males around ~5-6 years.

Longevity

(Franklin 2011)

Bactrian camel

  • Up to 35 years

Dromedary camel

  • Wild/feral animals: 20-35 years in the wild
  • Domestic animals: maximum of 40-50 years

A Long Time in the Womb

Bactrian mother and calf

A female camel is pregnant for at least a year.

Image credit: © San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. All rights reserved.

Page Citations

Bannikov (1976)
Franklin (2011)
Yagil (2006)

SDZWA Library Links