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How long can a camel go without water?

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A camel can go for a week without water if it is not loaded or made to travel too long a distance. Of course, after this time it must re-stock its hump and fill its water pockets.

The 'ships of the desert', as these ruminants are nick-named (which gives a good idea of the kind of ride they give their riders) are animals perfectly adapted to life in desert regions. Indeed, wet climates are very unhealthy for them.

Because for most of the time they are treading on sand, they do not have hooves but claws under which there are large, thick pads. This enables their toes to fan out and so helps them move over soft ground.

Everything in the camel's make-up then, has evolved with a view to allowing it to go longer without water.

Where do camels find water?

In the desert the air can hold a very large amount of water vapor (water transformed into gas). The desert air literally 'sucks up' all the water it can find, whether it comes from the ground or living creatures, and turns it into vapor. This dehydration does not affect the bactrian camel or its cousin, the dromedary (remember that the bactrian has two humps and the dromedary only one). They do not sweat, and are protected from dehydration by the especially thick woolly fleece on their backs. And if they need water, they can find it in their own bodies.

What is in a camel's hump?

As with other ruminants, there are several parts to a camel's stomach. One of them contains 'water pockets' controlled by muscles which open them when necessary. It is said that caravaneers have quenched their thirst by killing a camel to get the water out of its stomach. As for the humps, they are two large lumps of fat. Almost all the fat that the animal can accumulate is collected in these lumps. And these fatty lumps have a double advantage: they act both as a food reserve and as a reservoir of water. Thanks to fermenting agents—enzymes—part of the fat can be turned into water when the pockets in the stomach are empty.

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