Saturday, June 2, 2018

Photo: Young Woman Riding a Camel in the Desert

In 1942 a lucky young woman was doing a trek in the desert. Here she is proudly posing, on the back of a camel.

We will never know who she was, only that she was German and this being taken at the height of WWII North African Campaign.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Vintage Photos: Bedouin Praying In The Desert

These two old photographs are part of my collection. They depict a Bedouin and his camel in the desert. The Bedouin is doing his prayer. The pictures are not of the best quality, very little details are showing but still the topic is interesting. Circa 1930’s or 40’s, location unknown (probably North Africa since these come from a old French photo album).

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Camel Characteristics

The camel is a large, humpbacked mammal, and the first animal domesticated by man in prehistoric times.
Two species are recognized: the heavily built, two-humped Bactrian camel, which inhabits the deserts of central Asia, and the single-humped Arabian camel, or dromedary, which is widespread through.out the Middle East, India, and North Africa. Neither species has been much modified by man. The Bactrian camel, living in regions where the winters are very cold, has a longer, darker winter coat, and its legs are shorter.
An adult Bactrian seldom measures more than 7 feet from the ground to the top of the humps-about the height of the shoulder in the taller and more slender dromedary.
Physical Characteristics
Camels have even-toed, digitigrade feet (that is, the posterior of the foot is raised and it walks on its digits). The third and fourth toes are united by thick, fleshy pads and tipped with nail-like hooves. Horny pads on the chest and knees support the body when the camel kneels; these pads are present in the newborn calf. The limbs and neck of the camel are elongated, the upper lip is cleft, and the ears are small.
The hump of the camel is a food store which, because it is concentrated in one large deposit and not distributed as a subcutaneous layer of fat, allows the rest of the body to lose heat more rapidly, The notion that the camel stores water in its hump, or that the fat of which the hump is composed is itself a water store, is erroneous. On oxidation the fat does produce metabolic water, but the extra oxygen used in the process involves in turn an extra loss of water through the lungs, just about canceling any water gain from oxidation.
The camel is a very phlegmatic animal and has a reputation for stupidity and obstinacy. The males are quarrelsome during the rutting season and bite savagely when they fight.
The dromedary has a pronounced rutting season at the time of the rains in winter; pregnancy is prolonged for nearly a year until the following rainfall. The Bactrian has an even longer gestation period of 370 to 440 days. In both species the young are born singly and suckled for three or four months, and the interval between births is two years. Camels are full- grown at 16 or 17 years; the normal life span is about 25 years.
Droves of wild Bactrian camels in the Gobi desert consist of one or two males and three to five females. They sleep at night in open spaces and graze during the day on grasses, brushwood, and scrub, migrating to the northern part of the range in spring and returning southward in autumn.
Camels mate in January and February.
When moving fast, camels pace. That is, they raise both legs on the same side of the body and advance them simultaneously. A speed of about 6 mph may be achieved, but it cannot be maintained for more than a few hours. The normal walking speed of a fast dromedary used for racing by Bedouins is 3.5 mph, and its maximum speed is approximately 10 mph. A camel cannot gallop for more than a few yards, however. In order to keep a racing camel at its fastest pace-the long trot- the rider must cultivate a rankling sore on its neck and prick it constantly.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Camels and Dromedaries

Members of the suborder Tylopoda (which includes llamas, camels and dromedaries) have only two functional toes on each foot.
The members of the genus Camelus have on their backs humps of fatty tissues which contain stored food.
The Bactrian camel, Camelus bactrianus, has two humps. It is almost 2 meters high at the shoulders and is heavier and stronger than the dromedary.
The Bactrian camel is found throughout Central Asia from China to Turkestan and, apart from a few wild herds in the Gobi Desert, is known in only a domesticated state. It is used for transport and also provides milk, meat, leather and hair for spinning and weaving.
The dromedary, Camelus dromedarius, also known as the Arabian camel, has only one hump. It is well adapted to a desert environment, with broad feet for walking in sand and long eyelashes and nostrils that close for protection against dust.
Like the Bactrian camel, the dromedary can feed on coarse desert plants and is able to survive for long periods without water, mainly through the variability of its body temperature. When the outside temperature rises, most mammals keep their body temperature stable by perspiration and thereby lose a lot of water. However, the camel’s body temperature may rise by 6 degrees Celsius before the animal begins to perspire without becoming feverish.
When the heat of the day is greatest, camels sit facing the Sun and close to one another, thus exposing smaller areas of their bodies to the Sun’s heat.
The mares separate from the main herd to give birth to a foal every second year. The gestation period is 12 to 13 months and, within 2 days of its being born, the foal is running with ease and keeping up with the herd as it moves on.
Although they chew the cud, camels differ from most true ruminants in that the adults retain two incisor teeth in the upper jaw.
They also differ in the lack of an omasum, or third section, to their stomach. The smooth-walled rumen, or anterior section of the stomach, has diverticula (small sacs) opening out from it. The diverticula were formerly called “water sacs” because of a now-discarded theory (which appeared in Pliny’s Natural History) that the camel stores water in them. Actually, the fluid in these glandular sacs has the same salt content as the rest of the body, looks like green pea soup, and is quite repulsive.
To the desert traveler without water, however, any fluid seems attractive, and it is quite possible that the many tales of people who have saved their lives by killing their camels to drink this fluid are true. Other internal differences of the camel include the absence of a gall bladder and the presence of oval red blood corpuscles, which are not found in other mammals.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

How Camels Survive in the Desert

Camels at watering place LOC matpc.06063
By Matson Collection [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Besides the heavy eyelids and lashes and the slit nostrils that protect it against desert winds, a camel’s body exhibits many special adaptations to life in hot, dry regions. Thus, camels have unusually low metabolic rates. They can exist on dry food for two weeks or more, depending on the temperature, because they tolerate a much greater depletion in body water than most other mammals.
A camel may lose about 30% of its weight in body water without ill effects, as compared to about 12% in man. During periods of desiccation the blood of most mammals becomes increasingly viscous; it therefore circulates more and more slowly, until it cannot carry away metabolic body heat to the skin quickly enough, leading to “explosive heat death”. This is avoided in camels by a physiological mechanism that ensures that water is lost from the body tissues alone, while the blood’s water content remains fairly constant.
The camel does not lose its appetite during periods of desiccation, and can graze over a wide area away from water. When presented with water after a moderate dry period, it takes in, at one time, as much water as was lost-a camel can drink 25 gallons (100 liters) or more in a very short time. The body fluids rapidly become diluted to an extent that could not be tolerated by other mammals, which would die from water intoxication even if they took in a much smaller amount.
Because of its ability to lose water from body tissues alone, and because of its relatively small surface area, the camel can afford to sweat. The coarse hair on the back is well ventilated, allowing the evaporation of sweat to occur on the skin and provide maximum cooling. (The hair also acts as a barrier to the sun’s radiation and slows the conduction of heat from the environment.)
Undue water loss from sweating is avoided because the camel’s temperature can vary over a range greater than that of other mammals. In the North African summer a camel may have a morning temperature of 93°F, and an afternoon maximum of 105°F. Sweating does not commence until the higher temperature is reached; therefore the camel is able to store heat during the day, which can be lost at night without expense of water.
The rate of urine flow is low in camels, and little water is lost with the feces. Moreover, investigations of kidney function in the camel have revealed an extremely low secretion of urea when its food is low in protein. The camel, like most ruminants, can utilize urea for microbial synthesis of protein-a valuable asset to animals that have to exist on low-grade diets in deserts.
Thus, the adaptations of the camel to its hot environment do not involve independence from drinking water but the ability to economize the water available and to tolerate wider variations in body temperature and water content. In winter, when the temperature is comparatively low and water is not needed for heat regulation, camels become independent of drinking water for periods of several months.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Why The Camel Can Go Without Water

@Chaleerat Ng.
When properly rested and watered, a camel can easily survive a journey without water for three days, and in cool weather it can live without water for as long as a month by feeding on succulent vegetation. Contrary to popular belief, however, the camel goes without water only when forced to do so or if its food contains sufficient water for its needs.
It was once believed that the camel stored water in the hump and drew upon its store when it could not obtain water to drink. Although some water is obtained when fat stored in the hump is used as food, water itself is not stored there. Actually the camel’s ability to go for long periods without water is largely due to three unusual means of adaptation that it possesses.
First, if a camel is forced to go without water, it conserves water by excreting less water in its urine.
Second, most other mammals cannot function well if their body temperatures rise much higher than 100° Fahrenheit. Their temperatures are kept from rising too high by perspiration and by the evaporation of water through air exhaled from the lungs. This cooling process causes the loss of relatively large amounts of water from the body. The camel, however, has a wide range of normal body temperatures and does not begin to sweat freely until its body temperature reaches 105° Fahrenheit. As a result, the camel is able to conserve much water on long desert trips.
Third, when most mammals are forced to go without water, their blood gradually becomes thicker as a result of losing water through perspiration. When the blood becomes so thick that no more water is available for perspiration, fatal overheating may result.
In the camel, however, much of the water lost from the blood is replaced by water drawn from other body tissues. As a result, the normal blood volume can be maintained and the cooling process can continue to function much longer. A man would probably die if he lost water amounting to 12 percent of his body weight, but a camel may survive the loss of water amounting to more than 25 percent of its weight.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Domestication of Camels

The dromedary had been domesticated on the borders of Arabia by 1800 B.C., a fact confirmed by the finding of Middle Bronze Age remains of camels at ancient urban sites in Israel. Dromedaries were subsequently introduced to North Africa, the Nile Valley, and the Middle East as far as northwestern India. They appeared in the Roman arenas about 29 B.C. and were later used in chariot races. In modern times 20 of the animals were imported into Australia as carriers for the ill-fated Burke-Wills expedition which crossed the Australian continent in 1860-1861, and the descendants of these camels still live there. Dromedaries were also used in the United States after the Mexican War of the 1840’s, on mail and express routes across the newly acquired arid regions, but they were later killed.
Less is known of the history of the Bactrian camel. Remains found at Shah Tepe in Iran and at Anau in Turkestan, dating from about 3000 B. C., have been tentatively assigned to this species. It probably had a wide distribution as a wild animal in central and northwestern Asia in prehistoric times. By the 6th century B.C., Bactrians were domesticated in Persia.
Camels have often been used militarily. For example, a military camel corps was formed for the Gordon relief expedition of 1884-1885, and the French Saharan Camel Corps was largely responsible for the pacification of Algeria during the 19th century. About 3 million camels were used in World war I, and 50,000 in World War II.
Camels are still of great importance in desert countries as beasts of burden. A dromedary can carry 600 pounds for 30 miles in a day, and a bactrian can carry up to 1,000 pounds.
Camel hair is used for making clothes, tents, and carpets. The milk is nutritious, the flesh tastes somewhat like beef, and the liver is considered a delicacy.
2014 Sechseläuten - Sechseläutenumzug - Kämbel - Beatenplatz 2014-04-28 17-10-09
© Roland Fischer, Zürich (Switzerland) – Mail notification to: roland_zh(at)hispeed(dot)ch / Wikimedia Commons, via Wikimedia Commons

Saturday, March 17, 2018

The Economic Importance of Camels

Arabian camels can carry loads of 400 to 600 pounds across the desert, and bactrians can carry up to 800 pounds. Caravans consisting of 50 or more camels tied head to tail and led by an unburdened donkey usually travel at a rate of 2 to 4 miles (3.2 to 6.4 km) per hour, stopping to rest at waterholes.
Egyptian camel transport3
Attribution: By American Colony Jerusalem (Library of Congress[1]) [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Because of their height, camels must usually kneel to be loaded or mounted. Unlike many domestic animals, camels resist being loaded by snapping, hissing, kicking, swaying from side to side to shake off the load, spitting, bleating, whining, and sobbing. Once loaded, however, most camels bear their burden dutifully, without causing any disturbance.
Since World War II and the introduction of motor trucks, the use of camels as beasts of burden has declined rapidly. Camels are now valuable chiefly for the products they yield. Camel meat and milk are important foods in North Africa and in Asia. Camel hide is used to make sandals, jugs, and other containers, while the hair is used in rugs, tents, and clothing. The dried bones are often used in decorative art as a substitute for ivory, and the dung is used as fuel.

Camel milking in Niger
Attribution: By ACEI Cheung (4Cheungs) from Flickr (Flickr) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
Camels are usually bred during the damp seasons. The females generally bear only one colt, or calf, at a time. Arabian camels deliver about 315 days after mating, and bactrians give birth in about 385 days. Colts weigh about 30 pounds (13 kg) at birth and are born with their eyes wide open and with a coat of hair. The young mature in about 5 years and may live up to 40 years.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

The Survival Odds of the Bactrian Camel

Every school child learns about the two kinds of camels: one hump or two? That may not be possible in the future. The two-humped kind – the Bactrian camel – is classified as ‘critically endangered’, as a consequence of threats to its habitat on several fronts. Only a thousand individuals remain in their natural habitat in Asia and there is a chance that the wild Bactrian camel (Camelus bactrianus) may be extinct within fifty years. All camels are thought to descend from an animal very like the wild Bactrian; even the one-humped dromedary has two humps in the embryonic stages of development.
Bactrian Camel
By No machine-readable author provided. EmmanuelFAIVRE assumed (based on copyright claims). [GFDL (, CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or CC BY-SA 2.5-2.0-1.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

The Bactrian camel now only survives in the wild in the vast Gobi Desert, and in only four regions: three in China and one in Mongolia. The principal area it has survived in is the Gashun Gobi, an area of desert that was used by the Chinese from 1955 to 1996 as its nuclear testing range. Today the area is the Arjin Sha Lop Nur Nature Sanctuary, proclaimed specifically with camel protection in mind.
The wild Bactrian camel is uniquely adapted to the extreme arid conditions of the desert Gobi Desert, which averages less than 4 inches (100mm) rainfall per year. It is also resistant to freezing winter temperatures. Unlike domesticated Bactrian camels it has evolved the ability to drink salt water, and even salty slush when the oases are mere puddles. Despite this adaptability, its numbers are critically low. For animals already adapted to living in marginal areas such as deserts, global warming may be the last nail in the coffin. A longstanding drought in the Gobi has even further reduced the availability of water, while predators such as wolves congregate at the remaining oases, altering natural systems and patterns of predation.
Ironically, the use of one of their natural habitats as a no-access missile-testing zone may have protected the Bactrian camel, which was already thought to have become extinct in the wild many years ago. Astonishingly, exposure to radiation does not seem to have affected them or their breeding. (Other creatures have perhaps not been so lucky.) However, hunting for food and sport, and habitat loss as land is turned over to support farm animals, has contributed to the continuing decline of an animal already on the edge.
The unique adaptations of the Bactrian camel make it especially interesting for genetic studies, encouraged by the Wild Camel Protection Foundation. These camels have an extremely effective immune system and disease resistance, partly due to uniquely tiny antibodies. Genetic and immunological research may help in the development of new drugs for human and animal diseases.
With captive breeding programmed and state protection, there may be some hope for the Bactrian camel. There are fears that the population numbers may already have reached a critical low, a point beyond which recovery is not possible. In the meantime scientists, activists and the governments of both China and Mongolia are working to save it from extinction.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Camel Facts: The Basics

Copyright iStockphoto/photographer Photomorphic

The Arabian camel stands about 6 feet tall at the shoulders and about 7 feet tall at the top of its hump. Its body is large and has little fatty tissue, other than that concentrated in the hump. It has a long curved neck and long thin legs with thickly padded, knobby knees. The bactrian camel is more sturdily built than the Arabian. Bactrians can carry heavier loads than Arabian camels, but Arabian camels are much faster. Some dromedaries can keep up a pace of 10 miles per hour all day. Dromedaries were used for raiding by the Arabs and in the cavalry corps by the British, Indian, and Egyptian military forces.
The thick coat of the camel, which is either sandy-white, yellow-brown, or deep brown, provides insulation against extremes of heat and cold. The coat of the bactrian camel is much thicker than that of the Arabian and is quite shaggy on the humps and neck.
The camel’s face has been described as both haughty and stupid-looking. The ears are small, the nose arched, the eyes large and heavily lidded, the mouth wide and thick-lipped, and the lower jaw slightly receded. Despite its lack of beauty, however, the face is well adapted to life on the desert. Double rows of thick eyelashes keep flying sand out of the eyes. Slitlike nostrils, heavily lined with hair, filter sand and dust out of the air as the camel breathes, and the nostrils can be almost completely closed during a sandstorm.
The splayed feet of the camel are divided into two large toes, each of which has a small nail. The bottoms of the feet are protected by thick leathery cushions, rather than by the horny material typical of hooved mammals. The padding of the Arabian camel’s foot is quite flexible, allowing the foot to spread over soft sand, instead of sinking into it.
Unlike most other animals, camels walk with a pacing gait. The front and hind legs on the same side of the body are moved forward at the same time, resulting in a side-to-side pitch of the animal’s body as it moves forward. This swaying motion is probably responsible for its popular name, “the ship of the desert”.
The camel eats grass and other vegetation. Its stomach is composed of three chambers, the first of which is lined with special pouches that hold partially chewed food, which is returned to the mouth as the cud. Unlike most other ruminants, or cud-chewing animals, camels have front teeth, instead of hard gums in the upper jaw, and they sweep their cud across these teeth.
The most distinctive physical feature of the camel is its hump or humps. The hump is composed of connective tissue overlying the backbone. When the animal has eaten, most of the fats that it has absorbed or converted during the digestive process are stored in the hump, making it large and firm. A camel may store up to 80 pounds in its hump or humps, and when little food is available on a long journey, the animal utilizes its stored food. As the fat is used for nourishment, the hump shrinks and becomes flabby.