What I’ve Learned about Camels

DSC_0144Life throws some odd curveballs at times. I never thought I’d be out with a team sampling blood from camels, but here I am. I now know more about camels than I know about cows.

Camels are common throughout North Africa, both for food and as labor. There are many different breeds of camel. So far, I’ve seen the Pakistani, the Somalian and a one eyed example of a breed with a furry mullet.

Camels usually only have one calf. The mothers leave the herd to remain stationary until the calf is large enough to travel with the herd. Generally speaking, a camel is nearly full sized within about a half a year, though females don’t become pregnant until they are about four.

Males are massive creatures and can be highly aggressive. They are known to fight and most bear scars to prove it. Humans, however, have bred them to not bite their keepers despite ample teeth. Camels can kick in a circular motion, handy for fighting off lions. They are hesitant to kick humans, for some reason.

Like cows, camels chew cud. They regurgitate their food and continue chewing for hours. The males have a sack in their throat that becomes engorged when aroused or angry. When they scream it can come out their mouth like a fleshy balloon. The saliva it produces has the look and consistency of milk.

Camels are generally not concerned when older males are threatened, but will get stressed when younger animals are being handled. Females are extremely protective of young.

Handling a camel is a multi-person affair. The camel is surrounded and scared into submission, one of the legs is bound, and a rope thrown around the head. The head is pulled down so that the lips can be grabbed by a partner and the rope is looped through the mouth. The camel is then brought down on it’s front knees. The tail is prone and the rear legs soon follow. The head is then twisted around to the buttocks so that the camel can’t breathe efficiently. The sound that the animal makes is unbelievable.

The jugular of the camel is about two inches in width. It’s pretty hard to miss it.

Female camels enjoying sniffing each others genitals during urination. They will raise their heads straight in the air and close their eyes afterward. Males will also smell each other during urination, but appear to enjoy rubbing necks more. Male camels will much at other camels’ humps.

Camels only need to drink once every four days, and will consume a fifth of their body weight in water within 15 minutes when they do drink. Drinking that much water that rapidly would kill a human.

Camels, though aggressive, can also be very gentle. They enjoy sniffing at humans and will play with their hair.

That’s all for now.

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About Pete Larson

Assistant Professor of Epidemiology at the Nagasaki University Institute for Tropical Medicine

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