When you think of camels, the first image that inadvertently comes to mind is a caravan of camels running briskly through a sandy desert. How much do you know about them? The article below furnishes some fascinating facts about these animals.
Facts about Camels to Know
- Adult camels can reach 6-7 feet and weigh 1600 lb. Their life expectancy is approximately 50 years. Gestation period lasts anywhere between 11-12 months, and newborn camels are born without a hump.
- Camels have padded feet, and have two toes on each foot. They are ungulates, meaning hoofed mammals. Their widely placed feet are covered with leathery pads which enable them to run on sand without sinking into it. Thanks to these leathery pads, camels can walk or run almost noiselessly.
- For such a huge animal, camels have a rather small pair of ears, but very well developed hearing.
- Their eyes are covered with two rows of long, bushy eyelashes designed for life in the desert and to keep the sand out. Camels can seal their nostrils, ears, and mouth shut during a sandstorm to prevent sand particles from entering their bodies! Their nostrils have the unique ability of trapping water vapor and returning it to the body, thereby preventing loss of water due to respiration.
- Camels are herbivorous, and their diet consists of grass, oats, and dates. Equipped with a very strong tongue and mouth, camels can easily chew on thorny desert plants. Their lips are cleaved in a particular way which makes it easier for them to graze.
- A camel can consume green plants and make up for the water content required for its body, without the need to drink extra water. But at the same time, camels have been known to gulp down more than 30 gallons of water at one go!
- Camels consume food high in salt content, and can even drink extremely salty water. Domesticated camels are sometimes fed chunks of salt so their bodies get the required amount of salt.
- Camels are ruminants, which means they are cud-chewing animals. Their stomach is divided into four chambers.
- A camel’s coat, which can range in color from beige to brown, has the ability to reflect sunlight, thus protecting the animal from the sweltering heat of the desert.
- Camels are the only mammals who have differently shaped red blood cells. As compared to other mammals, camels possess oval shaped cells. Owing to this shape, camels can drink a huge amount of water in one instant, without the fear of the cells splitting due to excess water content. This shape also helps the cells move and flow if the animal gets dehydrated.
- Even though a camel may get dehydrated, its blood has the capacity to retain water and remain hydrated. Unlike other animals, where even 15% of water loss from the body can result in death, a camel can withstand fluid loss through perspiration by as much as 25%-40%.
- A camel’s body temperature is around 93 °F during the day and 106 °F at night. They can endure extremities in temperature. They sweat only when the body temperature crosses this limit. Since their bodies are covered by a thick layer of coat, the sweat, which evaporates at skin level, helps regulate the body heat and keeps it cool.
- Even their internal body organs are well developed to help them survive in hot climates and go without water. Their kidneys and intestines can hold back a large amount of water, as a result of which a camel’s urine is as thick as syrup, and the feces is so dry that it is used as fuel by people who dwell in deserts.
- They have very long legs, which help keep their bodies cool since they are at a good height above the ground. During very hot weather, camels prefer to walk rather than stand or sit. They walk with a swaying gait, and it is this undulating motion which gives them their famous nickname ship of the desert. A funny fact to note here is they can kick their legs in all 4 directions, so if you accidentally instigate this otherwise docile beast, beware!
- Nomadic tribes living in the desert plains of Africa drink camel milk. It is also made into yogurt, butter, and cheese. Camel meat and even blood is considered a delicacy in some countries in the Middle East. The fur of the camel is also a prized commodity in these nations and is used to make clothing and rugs.
- Camels have been used in wars for many centuries. They were used in military warfare thousands of years ago in Arabia and the Roman Empire, camels were also trained to supply troops during the First World War. In the United States, camels were in use in the Southwest, and the American Camel Corps was established in California where camels were used as pack animals. But with the advent of the Civil War, the Camel Corps disintegrated because the military felt that camels scared and posed a danger to their horses!
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