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Fun Facts About Camels

Bactrian Camel
Credit: alersandr hunta/Shutterstock.com

Humans have used camels as a means of transport for thousands of years.  They are known for being able to survive for long periods without food and water while carrying around 500 pounds on their back. The large beasts of burden stand around 5.9 to 7.5 feet (1.8 to 2.3 meters) tall and can be 7.4 to 11.3 feet (2.3 to 3.5 meters) long. They typically weigh 660 to 1,520 pounds (300 to 690 kilograms) at adulthood. They live between 40 to 50 years.

Domestic camels are often the main source of meat, milk and even leather or wool products. The Arabian camel, also known as a dromedary camel, is a domesticated animal found in North Africa and the Middle East.  Another type, the Bactrian camel, is found either wild or domesticated in Central Asia. They can be easily distinguished because the Bactrian camel has two humps on its back and the dromedary has one hump.

These humps contain fatty deposits that when metabolized can release one gram of water for every gram of fat. When food and water become scarce, the camel extracts energy from the fat stores. Additionally, a camel has oval-shaped red blood cells that help continue blood flow even without water. These adaptations allow a camel to survive for as long as six months without a meal.

Other facts about camels

Camelus dromedarius at the Singapore Zoo
Camelus dromedarius at the Singapore Zoo
Credit: Wikimedia Commons user Daderot

When a camel uses the fat stored in its humps for energy, the humps start to get smaller and deflate. The humps grow again when the camel rehydrates.

Camels make the most of a meal. They can rehydrate faster than any other mammal, able to drink about 30 gallons (113 liters) of water in just 13 minutes.

Camels can run up to 40 mph for a short period of time. They can maintain 25 mph for longer making them about as fast as a horse.

Camels are known for spitting on people. In fact, the animals are throwing up the contents of their stomach along with spit. This is a defense tactic when the animals feel threatened.

The large beasts make a variety of moans, groans and deep, throaty bellows. One of the camel's noises was even used to voice the character Chewbacca in the Star Wars movies.

Camels have very thick lips allowing them to eat even very salty, bitter or thorny plants. If hungry, camels can even eat leather shoes.

Other resources:

San Diego Zoo - Camel

National Geographic - Arabian Camel

National Geographic - Bactrian Camel

BBC Nature - Camels

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