Everything at camels is adapted for life on the desert. Feet are broadened to walk on sand. Eyelashes protect eyes from wind-blown sand. Nostrils close to keep sand out. Lips are thickened to withstand the coarsest of desert plants. Coloration matches the environment. Callouses are present on knees and other parts of the body that touch the hot sand when the animal sits down. Hump is a flesh mound not supported by bones. A reserve of fat (not water) is stored in the hump. Hump size varies with food supply and working conditions. Can tolerate a rise in temperature of 12 degrees Fahrenheit. Able to drink brackish or salt water. Camels exhibit unusual tolerance for dehydration.

Most animals perish when 20% of their body weight is lost. Camels survive a 40% loss of body weight without serious consequences. Heavy fur and the fatty hump serve to insulate the body, preventing body temperature from rising to the sweating point (the major cause of water loss). When water again becomes available, camels are able to restore their body water quickly; they have been known to drink one third of their body weight in 10 minutes.


Camels run like a giraffe with both legs on one side of the body moving simultaneously. The resulting rocking, shuffling gait gave rise to the term "Ship of the Desert". Camels have been used as beasts of burden for centuries. They are known for their loathing of men and forms of work. Spit foul-smelling stomach contents when annoyed. Arabs utilize almost every portion of the body. Tents are made of camel-hair cloth. The flesh of young camel is said to taste similar to veal. Camel milk is nutritious and cheese is also made from it. Skin makes good leather. Dried bones are substituted for ivory. Dung is burned as fuel on the desert. The name "Dromedary" is properly reserved for the Arabian racing camel such as those used in the various military camel corps. These camels can travel 80 to 120 miles per day carrying a rider. Arabian baggage camels have a heavier build and are capable of carrying a 200 kg load up to 40 miles per day. There are 160 words for camel in Arabic.


Fossil remains indicate that the camel family originated in North America. Only guanacos and vicunas may be found wild in the New World today. Llamas and alpacas have been domesticated. Camels exist only in the domesticated state in Africa and Asia. The Arabian camel has been successfully introduced into Australian desert regions where it is now feral. Attempts to introduce them into southern Europe and North America have failed.

The selection of Spanish Sahara issues, dedicated to dromedaries and to their drivers, covers the 1950th to  the 1960th years.

Credits: many thanks to Tracy Barber (USA) for the scans.


Created: 08/31/02. Revised: 01/07/06
Copyright 2002 by Victor Manta, Switzerland.
All rights reserved worldwide.

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