Camels rarely make the news because they are one mammal that loves being around human beings and they are a spectacle to watch even in a zoo. They are so hardy; they could probably survive the apocalypse after cockroaches. When camels walk through a sandstorm, they can close their nostrils and wait for the storm to pass and then go on as if nothing happened. It is not all roses with camels though. In March of 2022, a camel killed two zookeepers at the Tennessee petting zoo raising a scare among zoos in the US where many keepers are undergoing retraining on handling these calm-looking beasts. Here are 10 things that will surprise you about camels.
They can bite your head off
Camels rarely become aggressive but when they feel threatened or are left in conditions that keep them stressed, they can become very aggressive. It is advisable to stay as far away from an aggressive one as possible. When angry, a camel will kick at you and a single kick could easily break your jaw or fracture your skull. Camels are also capable of bites and when their mouth is fully opened, a grown man’s head could fit in there. In 2016, a camel bit off its owner’s head in Rajasthan, India after he left the poor animal tied up in the desert heat all day.
An angry camel can be a public safety nightmare
When the Sherriff’s deputies arrived at the Tennessee Petting Zoo, they found the aggressive camel still attacking the bodies of the unconscious zookeepers. It is believed that the zoo didn’t have enough water for the animals which may have caused the aggression. The police had to kill the animal because it was coming for them and didn’t seem deterred by the number of people that were there. It wouldn’t allow the zookeepers to be helped by the medical teams either.
They can stay for two weeks with no food or water
Camels are very good at maintaining their food reserves and therefore capable of staying for so long with no food or water. They can scrap for food from thorny bushes and even the tiniest of grass off the ground. Camels also gulp lots of water in a short time and once they are well fed, their bodies use up the food slowly. They store food reserves in the form of fat in their humps so when there is no food, you just notice the hump reducing in size and finally falling to one side of their backs but the camel keeps going.
Wild Camels exist but they are endangered
There are three species of camels named the dromedary which make up 90% of all the camels in the world. They have one hump and they tend to be taller and less hairy. The other species is the Bactrian which is also called the Asian camel because most of them originate from around China and Mongolia. Then there are wild Bactrians which roam in parts of China and Mongolia as well but there are less than 1000 left in the wild since their habitat has shrunk over the years. All camels including the wild ones are not a danger to humans unless their lives are truly threatened.
They can drink 200 litres of water in 3 minutes
Camels have big mouths with lips that can fold backwards allowing them to drink even the tiniest pools of water. The other thing they do so well is drink quickly and they do it in style. When they are really thirsty, camels drink up quickly gulping up to 53 gallons of water (200 litres) in 10 minutes. To put it in perspective, a regular family car has an average tank of 45 to 65 litres. One drink for a camel could therefore fill up four full tanks with some spare left. No wonder they can go for a fortnight without a drink.
They don’t store water in their humps
It is a common myth that camels store water in their hums and retrieve it when they are thirsty but that is not the case; the humps are used to store fat and they are considered a delicacy. Camels don’t have a lot of fat in the rest of their bodies because that would cause their bodies to heat up quickly when it gets hot in the desert. They, therefore, keep their fat reserves in one place in the humps reducing the heating load on the other parts of their bodies. A typical camel hump can carry up to 36 kilograms of fat and it is always ready for use when a camel is thirsty or hungry which is why the humps will dissolve quickly and fall to one side when the food becomes scarce.
They are very social creatures
Camels prefer living in a herd and a herd of up to 30 animals will live in harmony, at least until one female wants to mate and there are many males in the herd. The animals tend to follow one dominant male or female, so as long as you have the right leader in front, everyone will fall in line. Camels also communicate in bellows and meows and they have a different sounds for different situations. Relationships between the mother and young ones are close and amazing to watch.
Their milk is healthier than cow’s milk
Camels are a source of livelihood for millions of people in communities where they are reared. Camel meat has a lot more protein and Vitamin E than cow’s meat. A camel’s meat also contains a fair quantity of Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids. The milk is the most astonishing because it has up to two times more Vitamin C than cow’s milk. Camels rarely produce as much milk as cows do so unless you have a herd, you won’t have much to go around.
They can live up to 50 years
To have a big herd of camels, farmers have to be patient because camels grow slowly and won’t start breeding until they are four to five years old. The camel has a gestation period of 14 months so you can only have one calf in two years which is why calves are guarded jealously. Camels rarely get sick though and as long as you have food and proper maintenance, a camel will live for up to fifty years which is why they are considered true wealth.
They have been domesticated for over 3000 years
Camels may not be a man’s best friend but they have been a man’s best ship for millennia which is why they are called the ship of the desert. It is not clear exactly when the first ones were domesticated but there is early evidence of domestication in the Arabian Peninsula tracing back to 930 BC.
Do you know any other interesting facts about camels? Do let us know in the comments below.