Have you ever met a camel? If you have, you are not likely to forget the experience. Camels are just really weird (in a lovable sort of way!). Let’s get to know them a bit better, shall we?
Did you know that all the camels in the world belong to domesticated herds? There are no true wild camels roaming the deserts! These animals have been exceeding important to the generations of people who call the desert home. They provide transportation, milk, meat and leather to their owners. Desert tribes measure their wealth in the number of camels they own and treat their animals as friends. Without these dromedary helpers, people wouldn’t have been able to survive the harsh world they live in. (Except in Australia, I hear. Feral camels, once brought to the continent as transport are now over-running the Outback. Apparently, the Aussies are not too fond of these animals. Pity!)
I am sure you know that camels are called ‘ships of the desert’, but do you know why? Well, if you are ever lucky enough to ride a camel, you will notice how their rolling gait makes you feel a bit nauseous. This is exactly the queer feeling all landlubbers get on a ship sailing choppy waters. Sea-sickness in the middle of the desert! This is because camels, unlike many other four-legged animals, move both legs on one side of the body simultaneously. This creates the undulating movement that tosses the rider from side-to-side.
Ever wonder what a camel family reunion would be like? Well, the Camelidae family includes; Genus Camelus with the dromedary and the bactrian brothers, Genus Lama with the lively llamas, guanacos and alpacas and Genus Vicuña with the lovely vicuñas. This is a very global family. While the dromedaries live in Northern Africa, the Arabian Peninsula and South Asia; their two-humped bactrian brothers live in Central Asia. Their cousins, llama, alpacas, guanacos and vicunas call South America home. While there may be some language issues at a family dinner, they can all agree on the food. Vegetarian will be just fine, thank you.
‘Dromedary’ comes from the Latin word, ‘dromedarius’, which means ‘swift’. That can be further traced to the Greek, ‘dromas’, which meant ‘runner’. Believe it or not, camels can run fast, very fast. In short sprints, they can do 40 mph (65 km/h) and maintain speeds of 25 mph (40 km/h) for an hour or more! No wonder Pavan wants to break free and run!
Trust me, you do not want to make a camel angry. They first make a whistling noise by grinding their teeth, just to warn you. If you don’t get the message, they would probably stomp their feet hard and throw a regular tantrum. If you are brave (or stupid) enough to stay your ground, you are finally going to get a blast of ‘cud’, regurgitated food, spat right into your face. Ewww! Lesson learnt, I hope.
The most amazing thing about a camel is its ability to regulate its water intake. In winter, camels can go 50 days without water, in summer, 5 days! Most animals would not be able to survive a 40% reduction in body water content, humans cannot even tolerate a modest 1-2% water loss. How do they do it? Camels don’t sweat, instead they change their body temperature from 97.7-107.6°F (36.5-42°C)! That is a rise or fall of 10°F! Camel urine is so concentrated, it has the consistency of molasses. When camels do find water, they can drink 30 gallons or more in ten minutes. 30 gallons!