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Dromedary Camel (Camelus dromedarius)

Dromedary camels have a single hump composed of fat, which stores food for times of need and lips that are thickened to allow consumption of thorny plants. Dromedaries usually reach a little over 7 feet tall, including the hump. These massive ungulates can also weigh in at a very hefty 1,600 pounds. Male dromedary camels usually weigh just a tad more than the females, and also are usually taller. Dromedary camels live both in north Africa and the Middle East. Wild dromedary camels also roam through Australia. Dromedaries are true animals of the desert, and thrive in dry and arid atmospheres. They often inhabit environments that have extended dryness and brief spells of rain every year. Apart from deserts, dromedaries also live in steppes and prairies.

They are caramel or sandy brown in color, but can range from almost black to nearly white. Their hair is longer on the throat, shoulder and hump areas. Other prominent physical features of dromedaries are furry ears, dense eyelashes and eyebrows, thin legs and sturdy, thick lips. Their left and right legs move in unison, giving them a rolling gait and distributing weight to the soles of their feet rather than the toe tip like other ungulates. Their splayed feet are callused for walking on hot sand, and the long eyelashes, bushy eyebrows, sealing nostrils and fur-lined ears protect against sandstorms. The hump stores up to 80 pounds of fat, which a camel can break down into water and energy when sustenance is not available. These humps give camels their legendary ability to travel up to 100 desert miles without water. Camels rarely sweat, even in desert temperatures that reach 120°F, so when they do take in fluids they can conserve them for long periods of time. In winter, even desert plants may hold enough moisture to allow a camel to live without water for several weeks.

Dromedary camels are opportunistic herbivores that will eat virtually any vegetation that can be found in the desert, including salty plants rejected by other grazers. The diet of the camel mostly consists of foliage, dry grasses and available desert vegetation, mostly thorny plants growing in the camel's natural habitat. These comprise 70% of their diet in summer and 90% in winter. In the Sahara 332 plant species have been recorded for the dromedary. The dromedary will favour to feed on Acacia, Artiplex and Salsola plants whenever available.They keep their mouth open while chewing thorny food. They use their lips to grasp the food, then chew each bite 40-50 times. Features like long eyelashes, eyebrows, lockable nostrils, caudal opening of the prepuce and a relatively small vulva help the camel avoid injuries, especially while feeding. Diet in captivity includes hay and grains plus vitamin and mineral supplements.

Camels are able to breed by the time they are between three and four years old for females and five years old for males, when the dominant male of the herd has breeding rights with the females. Both female and male Camels come into heat during the breeding season which usually lasts between November and March. After a long gestation period that can last for up to thirteen months, the female gives birth to either a single calf or occasionally twins which can already weigh as much as 40kg at birth. Within eight hours the young calf is able to stand and is then nursed by it's mother in the protection of the herd until it is big and strong enough to become independent. Young Camels begin to eat grass when they are between two and three months old and are weaned at roughly four months of age.

Dromedary Camel Fun Facts

  • There are two types of camels: the one-humped camel (the Arabian Camel or Dromedary Camel) and the two-humped camel (the Bactrian Camel, native to the Gobi Desert in Mongolia).
  • Dromedary camels are much more common than two hump Bactrian camels.
  • Dromedary camels are native to to Africa and the Middle East.
  • The Dromedary Camel has a uniform length of hair year round.
  • The Dromedary camel can go without food and water for 3 to 4 days.
  • The hoofs of camels are small, and situated at the extremities of the toes, and the weight of the animal rests on the callous.
  • Camels are ruminants, meaning that they have a digestive system that allows use of otherwise indigestible foods by regurgitating and re-chewing them as "cud."
  • The cud is then re-swallowed and further digested by specialised microorganisms.
  • The thick coats of camels reflect sunlight and serve as insulation from the heat of the sand.
  • Baby camels are born without a hump.
  • Camels can close their nostrils to prevent sand from entering inside their nose.
  • Camels have the ability to endure wide changes in their body temperature as well as water content.
  • The Dromedary camel is domesticated and therefore in no danger of dying out.

Did You Know?

  • The dromedary camel is capable of drinking 30 gallons of water in just 10 minutes.
  • Camels store fat in the hump, not water! In fact baby camels are born without a hump because the layer of fat does not develop until they eat solid food.
  • Unlike most mammals, a healthy camel's body temperature fluctuates throughout the day from 93°F-107°F. This fluctuation is important because it allows the camel to conserve water by not sweating as the environmental temperature rises.
  • In Africa and Arabia the Dromedary Camel is a semi-domesticated animal that free ranges but is under the control of herders.

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