There are about 14 million camels in the world, with 90% being dromedaries—camels with one hump. The rest—those with two humps—are called bactrians. Dromedaries live as domesticated animals in the Middle East, North Africa and Africa. There are also about 700,000 feral (wild) camels living in the Outback of Australia. They are the offspring of dromedaries shipped in from the Middle East to Australian seaports in the 1800s. Bactrians are native to Mongolia and the Gobi Desert in China.
Arabs love their camels. Camels aren’t just beasts of burden. They’re pets, companions, and co-workers.
People in Africa, India, and Middle Eastern countries have kept camels as livestock for centuries. As livestock the animals provide food (meat and milk), as well as textiles (fiber and felt from hair). Serving as working animals, they provide a vital means of transport for people and cargo. Camel milk is a staple food of desert people, sometimes considered a meal in itself. A human can live on nothing more than camel milk for almost a month. It can be made into yoghurt, butter and cheese. Camel meat is said to taste like coarse beef but it can be tenderized by simmering.
Features of Camels
Full-grown dromedaries and bactrians stand about 6 feet at the shoulder and 7 feet at the hump. These tall, hardy animals can run at 40 mph in short bursts and 25 mph for long stretches. Their splayed toes help them get a good grip on sandy soil. Their life expectancy is 40 to 50 years.
The dromedary camel can go without water for 10 days, even on very hot days. Camels rarely sweat and then only at the skin surface where the moisture evaporates to cool the body. In mild weather, camels can get enough water from green plants to go without drinking for long periods. When water becomes available, the camel can drink over 50 gal in 3 minutes. People once thought that the purpose of the camels’ humps was to store water. They really store fat, which makes a good insulating cover for the animal’s body in hot sunlight.
Camels have thick coats. These, too, insulate the body—not only from the sun, but from the intense heat radiating from the desert sand, and even from cold desert nights. Even the length of the camel’s legs helps keep the animal cool by raising the body far up off the desert floor.
The word ‘camel’ is derived from the ancient Greek word ‘kamelos,’ which means ‘going without’—a description of this animal’s ability to live without food or water for days.
“Allah is known by 99 names. However, there is a one hundredth name,
which is known only to camels.”
“Life is like a camel. You can make it do anything but back up.”
“Trust in God but tie up your camel.”