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Bactrian camel

(Camelus bactrianus)

The history of camels

Many fossil remains indicate that camels, which were smaller at that time, lived 30 million years ago in the area of modern North America. Until the beginning of Pleistocene (2 million years ago), they had developed their current appearance. All the other variants of American camels died out approximately 8000 years ago. There is some evidence that the two-humped camel has 4 sub-species. In the wild, they only live in the Gobi Desert. They differ in genetic material and behaviour. They have domesticated them at least 4500 years ago.


The two-humped camels were, in 2007 (project EDGE), label as one of the 10. contact species. This means they are globally endangerment from an evolutionary point of view. They live in Mongolia and China. The locals call them desert ships. The two-humped camel is classified as an endangered species (IUCN 1996), USFWS.


The body is usually 3 m long, sometimes even more. A camel is 230 cm tall. Its body is covered with fur with a colour pallet ranging from brown to light sandy. During the winter season the body is protected by more than 25 cm of thick fur, which falls of quickly in the summer. The tail can be as long as 50 cm and has no fur on its tip. The camel weighs 800 – 1000kg. On its back there are two humps filled with fat and not water as it was thought before. They have a long, triangular-shaped face, and have a seaming »laughing« lips. They have got long eyelashes and nostrils. In case of a sands storm, these are sealed to prevent the sand or dust from causing irritations. Their eyes water more to remove sand or dust from eyelids. They have two, wide and undivided soles on their feet, which are ideal for walking on sand. Their chests and feet have hardened blisters, which protect them from the hot sand.


Females are sexually mature at 3-4 years of age, males at 5-6 years. They usually mate in March and April. The gestation period lasts for 12-14 months. They give birth to 1 (rarely 2) offspring. The offspring are independent at the 1-2 years of age. They live around 40 years. They usually live in groups of 6-30 males with youngling which are led by an adult male or female.


They are highly adoptable to rising and falling temperatures. They can last for extremely long time without water. When they get water, they can drink up to 57 litres. Some say they can drink up to 120 litres in 10 minutes. If they have enough food their humps are fat and straight, when there is a shortage of food, their humps can lean on one side. When the camel starts to run, it runs with feet on the same side – as giraffes do. Not one animal can´t match their freight carrying skills. They can carry up to 400 kg through 47 km of desert. Sight and smell are highly developed – they can smell a human for 2.5 km. They can be stubborn; they can bite or kick. If well trained, they can be nicer than the one-humped camels.


We also know one-humped camels (C. Dromedar), which live in Africa. The two-humped (C. Bactian) lives in Asia. It is wise to remember the letters B and D. If they are placed horizontally we get a one-humped or a two-humped letter. Bactria, a place between Turkmenistan and Iran, is the place where domesticated camels live.

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