Camels are a family of mammals. Unlike cows or deer, they walk on their calluses, i.e. not on the tip of the foot, but on the heel. Camels come in several types: llama, guanaco, vicuna, alpaca, wild camel, dromedary, and the camel proper, which is properly named “bactrian camel.”
The animals of all species are rather large, eat only plants, and have long necks. The teeth resemble those of rabbits. When the animals are resting, they lie in such a way that the legs remain under the body.
The guanaco is a wild animal native to South America. Of these, the llama is the pet form: it grows noticeably heavier, and humans bred it that way because they like the wool. It is similar to the vicuna or vicuña. The pet forms of this are called alpaca or alpaca.
The wild camel lives in central Asia and has two humps. There is a pet form of it, the dromedary. It has a hump and is kept in southern Asia and Arabia.
Most people think of the camel when they hear the word “camel”, which is also called “Bactrian camel”. It weighs up to 1000 kilograms and has two humps. With its dense fur, it looks even stockier. Just like the dromedary, it is valued as an animal for riding or carrying loads.
Why do camels rarely have to drink?
Camels can live with particularly little water. There are several reasons for this: They do not have a specific body temperature like all other mammals. Your body can get up to eight degrees Celsius warmer without harming you. As a result, they sweat less and save water.
Camels have particularly strong kidneys. They remove a lot of waste from the blood, but only a little water. So your urine is much less watery. It will also make you pee less. Their droppings are also drier than those of other mammals.
The noses can also do something special: They can retrieve moisture, i.e. water, from the air we breathe and thus keep it in the body. What we humans see as a vapor cloud when we exhale in winter would be much less common in camels, even at low temperatures.
The red blood cells have a special shape. Camels can therefore drink a lot of water at once without their blood becoming too diluted. In addition, camels drink a lot in a very short time.
Camels are good at storing water in their bodies. However, this does not happen in the humps, as is often thought. That’s where they store fat. A camel with empty, limp humps is therefore not thirsty but desperately needs enough to eat. This allows it to rebuild its reserves.
How do camels reproduce?
In nature, camels usually live in small groups. These consist of one male and several females. They are therefore called “harem groups”. The young animals also belong to a harem group. As young males mature, they are expelled from the harem group. They form their own groups and then try to displace a harem leader and take over the harem themselves.
The male mates with each harem lady and tries to have children with her. Pregnancy lasts a year and maybe two months longer. The female usually gives birth to only one cub. As with horses, the young animals are called “foals”. A foal drinks its mother’s milk for about a year. A young animal must be two to three years old before it is sexually mature itself. This means that it can then provide for offspring itself. Depending on the species, camels live between 25 and 50 years.