By Briana Magistro
SC Staff Writer
What has big lips, bushy eyebrows, long eyelashes, and one big hump? A Dromedary camel, of course!
Dromedary camels are the second largest camel species alive today and are the most common kind of camel on earth.
They inhabit northern and central Africa, including the Sahara Desert. They can also be found in the Canary Islands, as they were imported there in the 1400s in trade routes.
A population of wild Dromedaries lives in Australia as well. They are believed to have evolved from a small extinct camel species from Arabia.
The Dromedary camel can grow over six feet tall and weigh over a half-ton. Males typically grow larger than their female counterparts.
All camels exhibit bushy eyebrows and long eyelashes to protect their eyes from the drifting sand in the desert. They also have strong jaws with thick tongues to ingest the tough, spiky desert vegetation, which makes up their diet.
The dromedary has just one big hump while other camel species, like the larger Bactrian camel, have two humps. The camel’s humps hold fat, which can be converted into water and energy in a time of need. Up to 80 pounds of fat can be stored in the hump!
Camels can raise their internal body temperature to keep from sweating so much, which would cause them to lose water.
Another adaptation that camels possess for desert living is a specialized kidney, which is able to function even when the camel has used up to 30 percent of its internal water supply.
Camels mate in wintertime and have a gestation period of 15 months. As with most mammals, camels will care for their young for a relatively long period of time. Camel kin stay with their mothers for about two years. The mating season is the only time males will get aggressive with one another.
Most of the time, camels get along very well. They will typically form patriarchal herds of up to 20 members. In times of drought or scarcity of food, herds may combine and travel together. Camels prefer to travel in a straight line.
These camels come in various colors of tan, beige, and brown. Their skin is relatively thicker than other mammals, and this protects them from windy sandstorms.
Dromedary camels are one of the hardiest camels, as they can carry up to 600 pounds for 15 miles.
Thousands of years of domestication have proved them to be more patient and easier to train than cattle or horses. Camels are also capable of kneeling easily due to the joints in their legs, making loading people or cargo a simpler task.
Their gentle demeanor makes them a common choice for trade and travel in the Arabian and African areas in which they are farmed.
Historic evidence suggests that they were even used as a hardier substitute for warhorses, being able to carry more weight for a longer period of time during combat movement.
Camels are also used for their milk, meat, and fur. Camels provide massive amounts of meat, although bubonic plague has been proven to exist in some raw camel meat.
Many desert farmers use the hardy camel as they would cows. Cow milk spoils faster in heat than camel milk.
Camels are the cattle of the desert. If you were a farmer in the deserts of Africa, you’d probably have one of these instead of your cow!
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