Peter is an independent international zoo consultant, critic and writer with over 50 years of work within zoos.
Camel in Cave Art
World Camel Day
The 22nd of June has been designated as World Camel Day. Is is a relatively new event within the World's animal events but one that is likely to increase in popularity as more people become aware. The Camel deserves a day of recognition. It is one of the most important of all domestic animals.
The Camel has long been important as a source of milk, meat, wool and leather. Even the dung was used as fuel in the desert. As a riding or pack animal there is nothing better in the harsh desert environment to which it is so well adapted.
Today the Camel is still maintained for traditional use but in the modern world it has become a racing animal and a subject of both beauty and poetry competitions.
Camels are a popular Zoo Animal.
Male Camels can be extremely dangerous.
The camel was first domesticated in Asia around 4000 BC. Though the camel is very much part of the tourist scene in Egypt it is a relatively new animal for the country first arriving with the Persian army in 525 BC. It does not appear in any Egyptian Hieroglyphics. It is somewhat doubtful whether the camel has any place in Genesis either and can largely be put down to Biblical anachronism.
There are three species of Camel
- The Dromedary Camelus dromedarius
- The Bactrian Camelus bactrianus
- The wild Bactrian Camelus ferus
Cradle of the Camel
The bones of wild Dromedary Camels dated to around 6,000 years ago have been found in the Umm al Naar region of Abu Dhabi. These animals appear to have been hunted for food. The first evidence of domestication of the Dromedary were found on Ra's Ghanadha island off the coast of Abu Dhabi. This was dated to about 4,000 years ago. Further research is ongoing on finds made in Sharjah for around the same time. Possibly the same people, the same tribe carrying out the domestication. The UAE is truly 'The Cradle of the Camel'.
Camel Farm in Dubai
The Desert Camel
by: Martha Lavinia Hoffman (1865-1900)
Trackless and bare are the sands of the desert
No verdure adorns them, no green tree is there;
Parched by the winds and the hot, scorching sun rays,
Strewn with white bones lying bleaching and bare,
Like a vast ocean of rolling sand surges
Beaten and driven like waves on the deep,
Changing and shifting in wildest confusion
In the hot wind-storms that over them sweep.
Patiently, slowly, across the vast ocean
Plod the strong camels, so faithful and true;
Ships of the desert, with merchandise laden,
Gladly for them comes the harbor in view.
Onward they toil on their long, weary voyage,
While never a blade of grass blesses their sight;
Cheered through the day by the songs of the Arabs,
Resting upon the bare sand-waves by night.
The Dromedary Camel
The Dromedary Camel is believed to have evolved from a subspecies of the wild Bactrian Camel. Domestication and inbreeding produced the animal we are so familiar with today.
There are no wild Dromedary Camels. All those animals wandering at the sides of the road, or even in the deep desert in Arabia have an owner.
Feral Dromedary Camels can be found in Australia where they were imported back in 19th Century. There are believed to be around a million of them and they are a serious pest.
Distribution of the Dromedary Camel
Distribution of the Bactrian Camel
The domesticated Bactrian Camel can be found from Iran stretching through Central Asia to Mongolia and Northern and Western China.
Wild Bactrian Camels
The Wild Bactrian Camel
Appearances can be deceiving. The domestic and the wild Bactrian appear to be very much the same animal. There are minor physical differences but when the DNA was examined it was found to show a 3% variation. That may not seem to be very much till one considers that Human Beings and Chimpanzees are on 5% apart.
Distribution of the Wild Bactrian Camel
The Wild Bactrian Camel
The Bactrian Camel was long believed to be extinct in the wild till a small population was discovered in the Gobi Desert of Mongolia in 1957. Although it has had a degree of protection since then the population remains under threat.
Although some may believe that shaving the head to depict symbols and pictures is something new. It isn't. Such works of 'art' have long been practiced on camels.
Camels at War
Apart from its obvious uses as a pack, riding, milk and meat animal the camel has played its part in warfare.
Genghis Khan, The Persians, the Greeks, the Romans all used camels for warfare in ancient times. The Romans even brought them to Britain (along with elephants) in 43 AD.
In more recent times the US and the British have had their own army Camel Corps and Today they play a role in the armies of Oman, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Morocco, India amongst others.
In Modern Times
Today the Camel is increasing in popularity. There are large dairy herds producing milk for drinking and chocolate production. Camel Burgers are sought out by tourists and Camel racing is a 'must see' for visitors to the Middle East.
There are estimated to be some thirteen million camels in the world today.
Camel Milk Chocolates
It doesn't look like the Camel is going to disappear in a hurry though its use as a beast of burden or a means of transport is much decreased in use. Camels remain part of the Arabian heritage and will remain.
In 2013 the connection between the Camel and the MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome), a coronavirus were first made. This is currently a cause of international concern.
Such is the popularity of the Camel in Desert Culture that it cannot be doubted that huge amounts of oil money will be spent to ensure that the root cause of MERS is found and the Camels are given a clean bill of health.
The Camel even plays its part in Hump Day. Hump Day is that highest point of your mid-week (usually Wednesday) after which it is downhill towards your weekend. It is said that Hump Day actually relates to Humpback Whales.
Other Camelids include Llamas, Alpacas, Guanacos and Vicunas which are all found in South America.
Maurice Glaude from Mobile on October 27, 2014:
Awesome! So much I didn't know about Camels. +++
Peter Dickinson (author) from South East Asia on May 08, 2014:
Thank You FlourishAnyway.
FlourishAnyway from USA on May 08, 2014:
This was a great hub -- very educational and the topic was so different. Terrific! Voted up +++ and sharing.