Camels are interesting animals. Today camels live in the Australian Outback, Middle East, and Northern Africa but did you know they once lived right here in the United States? It’s true! Camels are sometimes called ships of the desert because they are helpful animals that can carry large loads. Keep reading to find out more interesting camel facts for kids!
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What is a Camel?
A camel is a large mammal. A mammal is an animal that has hair, gives birth to babies (they do not lay eggs), and feeds their babies milk.
Almost all camels are domesticated. A domesticated animal is an animal that is raised on a farm or somewhere other than the wild. There are very few camels left in the wild. Camels have been domesticated for around 5,000 years.
There are two different types of camels: Dromedary Camels also called Arabian camels and Bactrian Camels.
Dromedary/Arabian Camels vs Bactrian Camels
There are two species of camel Dromedary or Arabian camels and Bactrian camels. Find out more about the two species of camel
Dromedary or Arabian Camels have only one hump.
Where do Dromedary/Arabian Camels Live?
They live in the Middle East, North Africa, West Asia, and in the Australian Outback.
Dromedary or Arabian Camels weigh between 650-1,300 pounds.
Bactrian Camels are camels with two humps.
Where do Bactrian camels live?
They live in the Gobi Desert and other places in Central Asia and East Asia such as mountainous southwest Mongolia and northwest China and some also live in the Australian Outback.
Bactrian Camels are a little bigger than Dromedary Camels. They weigh between 650-2,200 pounds.
There are very few Bactrian camels that still live in the wild.
Australian Feral Camel
Australian feral camels are not a separate species of camel. They can either be Bactrian camels or Dromedary camels. When people think of Australian animals they usually do not think of camels. Camels weren’t originally from Australia.
They were brought to Australia in the mid-1800s by British India and Afghanistan to be used as a form of transportation during the construction and colonization of the western parts of the county.
In the 1920s camels were no longer needed when motorized transportation took over. The camels were released into the wild. Today they live in the Australian outback.
Did you know that camels were once living in the United States? I don’t mean like in zoos that we see today. In the 1850s camels were brought to the Southwest deserts in America to transport supplies for setters and army forts from Texas to California,
Today we do not have any camels living in our deserts. The only place to see camels in the U.S is at zoos and farms.
What does a Camel Look Like?
Camels are large, they are 7ft tall measuring from the top of their hump to their feet.
Camels have long legs. They also have long curved necks.
Camels are built to survive in a harsh environment. They have learned to adapt to the extremely high and low temperatures that they call home. The sand alone in the desert can reach temperatures of 150 degrees. They are not bothered by extreme temperatures, sandstorms, and even lack of food and water.
A camel’s fur is thick and long on its hump and head. This is to protect them from the sun and helps them stay cool. A Camel’s coat (hair) reflects the desert sun and keeps them cool in very hot temperatures. It will also keep them warm in cooler temperatures. The hair on their belly is shorter. The shorter hair on their belly allows heat to escape and keeps them cool.
Camels have three sets of eyelids. The third eyelid is thin and camels are able to see a little bit when it is closed. They will keep that third eyelid closed during a sandstorm.
Camels also have two tows of thick long eyelashes. These eyelashes also protect the camel’s eyes by helping to keep the desert sand and dust out of their eyes.
When a camel feels the desert winds blowing, they will tighten muscles in their nostrils. Camels can close their nostrils to keep sand and dust out.
Camels have very tough padded feet. This helps keep the camel’s feet protected from the hot sand.
Camels have thick lips which allow them to eat the thorny plants without getting hurt. Their top lip is split and each side can move separately. This helps them grasp food the same way you would use your fingers to do so.
Camels have sharp teeth in their bottom jaw, and flat teeth in the back of their mouths.
Camels are intelligent and have good eyesight and hearing.
Camels can kick all four legs. This includes both the front and back legs. When camels need to rest they rest lying down with their legs tucked under them.
Camels are social animals, they will travel with other camels to search for food. In extreme temperatures, camels will huddle close to other camels pressing against each other’s bodies. This helps keep the camels cool because their body temperature is lower than the air around them.
A camel’s pee is thick like syrup and a camel’s poop is dry. Sometimes camel poop or dung is used to make fuel.
Camel’s hair is used to make wool for clothing. Camels also produce milk for people to drink. Camel milk is lower in fat than cow’s milk.
In countries such as Egypt, Somalia, Saudi Arabia, and Kazakhstan some people eat camel meat as another source of protein. Camel meat takes like a gamey lean beef. Some cuts of the meat can be tough. The older the camel the more tough the meat.
Camels live 40-50 years.
What’s in a Camel’s Hump?
What is in the camel’s hump? This is a question that many people ask. What is the number one answer to that question…water! People always think that a camel holds water on its hump. This is not true at all. So, what is in the camel’s hump? The real answer is fat. Yes, it’s true a camel’s hump stores fat.
After a camel eats whatever nutrients that are not used are stored in the camel’s hump as fat.
Camels can store up to 80 pounds of fat in their humps at one time.
So, why do camels need to store all that fat? Camels live in harsh environments. Food and water aren’t always available.
When no food is available, the fat in the camel’s hump converts to energy and water so the camel can survive.
The ability for camels to live off the fat in their humps allows them to go without food and water for a couple of weeks (depending on the temperature) if needed. In cooler climates, camels can go even longer without food. Camels have oval blood cells that do not clump together like ours do when they are dehydrated. This allows them to go long periods without water.
When all the fat in the hump is used up the hump will get smaller and even flop over on the camel’s side.
What do Camels Eat?
Camels are herbivores meaning they eat mostly greens and vegetation.
A camels diet consists of grass, grains, seeds, twigs and even plants with thorns. A camel’s lips are thick to protect the camel from the thorns.
They are ruminants which are animals with more than one stomach and digest food in two steps. First, animals will eat food. Next, it will eat the partially digested food called cud. Camels will chew cud up to 50 times before swallowing it.
A camel can drink up to 40 gallons of water at one time and in under 3 minutes.
A mother camel is pregnant for 13 months. She will give birth to one calf, twins are rare.
A calf weighs between 80-90 pounds when they are born. They are around 4 ft tall. Just tall enough to reach its mother’s milk.
Even though their mother’s milk is their main source of food, they will start to nibble on plants. After the calf turns two or three months old it will start eating food regularly.
Calves are born with barely visible and very tiny humps. Their hump develops when they are finished nursing (getting milk) from their mother.
Shortly after birth, the calf will try to stand. He or she will fall to the ground but continue to try. After a couple of hours, the calf will successfully stand.
Calves are sometimes born with white hair. Their hair will turn brown as they get older.
Calves stay with their mother for one to five years.
A camel will become an adult and have its calves between the ages of 4 and 5.
Camels are sometimes called “ships of the desert.” This is because they hold a lot of items to transport through the desert. Camels have been transporting and delivering goods for centuries. Throughout history, they were an essential part of goofs getting from one place to another.
Camels can hold up to 900 pounds but usually carry loads around 400 pounds.
In Africa in the 14th-century camels carried dug up slabs of salt dug to Timbuktu where it was traded for an equal weight of gold.
In Asia, camels carried silk and herbal medicines west. After traveling west, camels would bring back jade, walnuts, perfumes, and glass east.
Some camels work on farms. They pull plows and carry crops from the fields.
In Arabia and Australia, they have camel races in large stadiums.
In Egypt, many people own camels to give tourists rides around the pyramids.
Camels can run at speeds up to 40 miles per hour, but only for short amounts of time.
They usually travel 25 miles a day at 3 miles per hour.
If you want to learn more about camels, check out your local library or find out if your local zoo has a camel exhibit.
Camels Leo Statts
Bactrian Camel Anita Ganeri
Camels Judith Jango-Cohen
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