The dromedary camel is one of the three types of camel (the others being the wild and domestic Bactrian camels). This species has one hump while the others have two. The large hump on their back is used as a store for fat not water as many think. This is used to sustain them when food is scarce. As a result of this the size of their hump is variable throughout the year.
Other notable features of the dromedary camel include a long, curved neck, long legs on which to walk and double rows of eyelashes and eyebrows to help keep sand out of their eyes. Their lips are thickened to protect them while eating thorny plants.
Across their body the fur is typical a caramel or sandy brown color though some range from black to almost white. Their hairs are longer on the throat, shoulder and hump.
At the end of their body is a short tail which measures roughly 50cm (20in) long.
Males are typically slightly larger than females. The males have a soft palate which can be inflated to help them attract a mate.
They measure 2.2-3.4m (7.25-11ft) long and weigh 450-550kg (990-1210lbs). At the shoulder they stand 1.8-2.3m (5.8-7.5ft) tall.
Dromedary camels are herbivores. Their diet includes leaves, grasses and thorny desert plants. They may survive for up to a month without eating. They may spend between 6 and 8 hours of their day browsing for food.
One way they survive is by eating parts of plants which other animals won’t such as the thorns of an acacia tree.
As a ruminant they must bring their food back up and chew it again to aid the digestion.
The dromedary camel is extremely well adapted for life in arid areas where they cannot obtain water often. They will go for up to a week without water. When they do find water they will drink up to 145L (32 gallons) in a single session.
It is believed that there is no longer a truly wild population of this species. Those that are in the wild are under the control of herders. They can be found in the Middle East across to northern India and down through Africa in the Sahara desert.
The largest population of dromedary camels now lives in central Australia where they were introduced during the 19th century.
Until the early 1900s a population existed in the southwestern United States.
They live in arid and semi-arid areas with a range of adaptations which help them live here.
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To attract a mate the male can expand its soft palate. They may compete with other males for breeding rights and these battles involve threatening each other with low noises, standing as tall as possible and repeating head movements. This may develop in to a full confrontation which involves attempting to bring them to the ground by biting the knees of the opponent.
Breeding takes place during winter to coincide with the rainy season.
A single calf is born (twins on rare occasions) after a 12-14 month gestation. At birth the calf does not have its hump. As this is formed from fat they must start eating solid food before this will develop.
The birth occurs away from the herd. A female will find a private area among vegetation where she can calve. The mother and calf return to the herd after two weeks.
The calf is weaned by one year old. It may take them up to 7 years for the dromedary camel calf to reach adult size.
Females reach sexual maturity between three and four years old while males mature at five years old.
During high temperatures the camel will raise its body temperature to stop them from sweating which prevents the loss of excess moisture.
When walking camels can move both legs on one side of the body at the same time which is different to most other animals.
Dromedary camels will form herds which include a few females and their young led by a single male. Males which do not lead a herd may form bachelor herds.
They are active during the day.
One method of communication between camels is changing the position of their head, neck, ears, and tail.
Predators and Threats
Their large size means they have few predators but some are attacked by wolves.
When threatened the dromedary camel will spit at its predator.
Humans have helped this species by expanding its range to Australia. They are used for their milk, fur and to provide transport providing an incentive to keep their population stable.
Dromedary camels are called the ‘ships of the desert’ as they have long be used as pack animals to carry goods across the desert.
They are also known as the Arabian camel or one-humped camel.
In some areas they are used for camel races.
It is believed that this species was first domesticated during 3000-2000 BCE in Arabia.
A group of dromedary camels is known as a caravan or flock.
Some people judge the wealth of another person based on how many camels they own.
The dromedarius portion of their scientific name means ‘running.’
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Burnie, D., 2011. Animal. 3rd ed. London: DK
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Nationalgeographic.com. 2020. Arabian Camel (Dromedary) | National Geographic. [online] Available at: <https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/mammals/a/arabian-camel/> [Accessed 14 November 2020].
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