The Camel-Ship of the Desert

The Camel-Ship of the Desert

The animal is famously known as the ship of the desert because of its walk, which is much like the motion of a ship at sea. Patience is one of its most observable features and camels are generally useful animal.

The camel family originated in North America.The American camels migrated, some into what we call South America, and others north-west towards present day Alaska. The northward bound animals crossed into Asia over the ancient land bridge which then existed between the continents of America and Asia, and gradually evolved into today’s Bactrian camel. The Arabian camel only appeared just over 6,000 years ago. It is believed to have been specially bred from the Bactrian camel as a one-humped domesticated form by tribes in Asia.

Camels have long been domesticated and, as livestock, they provide food (milk and meat) and textiles (fiber and felt from hair). As working animals, camels—which are uniquely suited to their desert habitats —are a vital means of transport for passengers and cargo.

In South America,The domesticated camels are the llama and alpaca. The llama is used as a pack animal, but it is also bred for its wool and its tender meat. Its dung is used as fuel in areas where there is little timber. The alpaca is bred for its superb wool. Wool from the alpaca was once used to weave robes for the Inca noblemen.

The guanaco is a wild member of the South American camel quartet and it still survives in reasonable numbers in the mountains of Peru and Ecuador and in the hills and plains of Patagonia.

Smallest of all camels is the vicuna. This animal stands only 90cm (30 ins) at the shoulder and weighs no more than 50kg (110lb). Once widespread on the higher plains of the Andes, the vicuna has been seriously reduced in numbers due to over-hunting. Thanks to careful protection and conservation this species has been brought back from the very brink of extinction, but it must still be regarded as a threatened wild animal in need of full protection.

Like horses, before their extinction in their continent of origin, camels spread across the Bering land bridge, moving in the opposite direction to the Asian immigration to America. They survived in the Old World, and eventually humans domesticated them and spread them globally. Along with many other megafauna in North America, the original wild camels were wiped out during the spread of Native Americans from Asia into North America, 12,000 to 10,000 years ago. Most camels surviving today are domesticated.Although feral populations exist in Australia, India and Kazakhstan, wild camels survive only in the wild Bactrian camel population of the Gobi Desert.

Desert tribes and Mongolian nomads use camel hair for tents, yurts, clothing, bedding and accessories.Camel wool was often used to make luxurious rugs that were traded on the Silk Road (“Culture”). The wool used to create fabric is taken from the thick, long coat of the bactrian camel, found primarily from middle to eastern Asia. The soft and fine underlayer of Bactrian hair is used for the production of fabric (“Cashmere and Camel Hair Fact Sheet”). Camel wool is an excellent source of warmth during harsh, cold desert nights.

Military forces have used camel cavalries in wars throughout Africa, the Middle East, and into the modern-day Border Security Force (BSF) of India.During the 9th century BC, they began to be used for warfare by carrying soldiers and transporting heavy loads. The concept of camels being used for transportation in warfare is known as camel cavalry.

Beyond their role in battle, camels played a likely even more essential role in trade. One of the most important trade routes in history was the Silk Road. The Silk Road was an exchange of not only goods and products, but also culture between the East and the West. The Silk Road offered a vital connection between China and the Middle East, and Bactrian camels were the main labor animal for trade along the road. Camels were often used on the Silk Road for their ability to carry very heavy loads an extremely long distance. Although they traveled very slowly, they carried about three hundred pounds per load. Three hundred pounds is an incredible amount of merchandise moving between empires that likely would not have reached and influenced so many cultures without camels.

Camel milk is a staple food of desert nomad tribes and is sometimes considered a meal itself; a nomad can live on only camel milk for almost a month.Camel milk is rich in vitamins, minerals, proteins, and immunoglobulins; compared to cow’s milk, it is lower in fat and lactose,and higher in potassium, iron, and vitamin C.Bedouins believe the curative powers of camel milk are enhanced if the camel’s diet consists of certain desert plants. Camel milk can readily be made into a drinkable yogurt, as well as butter or mcheese, though the yields for cheese tend to be low.

Other facts
Camels can run at 25 mph (40 kph) for long periods. If their owner is in a hurry, they can kick their speed up to 40 mph (67 kph).

The camel’s hump is like a storage container. When camels use their stored fat, their hump will diminish. When they eat and drink again the hump will refill with fat.

Camels have oval-shaped red blood cells that help continue blood flow during times when water is scarce.

Camels are known for spitting on people. In fact, the animals are throwing up the contents of their stomach along with spit. This is a defense tactic when the animals feel threatened.

The large beasts make a variety of moans, groans and deep, throaty bellows. One of the camel’s noises was even used to voice the character Chewbacca in the Star Wars movies.

Camels have adapted to the hot, dry desert climate very nicely. Their thick coat also reflects sunlight, which helps to keep it from overheating. The camel has long legs that also helps to keep their bodies farther away from the hot ground.

Camels have a double row of very long eyelashes and a clear inner eyelid which protects the eye from sandstorms while still letting in enough light for camels to see.

Camels can also close their nostrils.

Camels do not store water in their humps. The hump is actually a reservoir of fatty tissue. When this tissue is metabolized, it acts as a source of energy, and yields more than 1 gallon of water for each 1 gallon of fat that is converted.

The camels kidneys and intestine are able to hold water and because of this ability, the camel can live in very dry and hot climates and go without water for long periods of time.

When camels walk they move both legs on one side of their body and then the other. Their feet are also flat and wide. Both of these features help them from sinking into the sand.

Camels are powerful runners and can reach the speed of 40 miles per hour in a short burst, which is as fast as a horse. They can cruise along at 25 miles per hour when running for a distance.

Bactrian camels grow a shaggy coat in the winter to protect them from the freezing cold. Then, in the extremely hot summer, they shed their coats. They can survive from minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 29 degrees Celsius) in the winter to 120 degrees Fahrenheit (49 degrees Celsius) in the summer.

A mother camel gives birth in 12 – 14 months to one calf. When the calf is born it weighs 80 pounds and is most often pure white. It takes the calf several hours before it can stand up.

Male camels reach maturity between 6 and 8 years. Females reach maturity in 3 years

 

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