Camel: Description, Species, Size, Habitat and Facts


A camel is an ungulate that has an even toe. It is categorized under the genus Camelus and has distinctive fat deposits on its back, known as humps.

Camels have been domesticated for a long time as livestock, in which they provide textiles (felt from hair and fiber), food (meat and milk).

Camels are hard-working animals, especially apposite to the desert habitat, and are the main source of cargo transport & human carrier.

There are three extant species of camel. The two-humped Bactrian makes up 6% of the world camel population, and the one-humped dromedary makes up to 94%.

The Wild Bactrian camel is an endangered species separate from the others. The word camel is used informally in a wider sense, while the correct term to describe all the seven species of the family Camelidae is camelid.

There only three true camel species, which are dromedary or Arabian camel (camelus dromedaries), Bactrian camel (camelus bactrianus), and wild Bactrian camel (camelus ferus). There are also four New World camelids, which include the alpaca, the llama, the vicuña, and the guanaco.

The word camel was derived from the Latin word camelus, the Greek word κάμηλος (kamēlos) from Hebrew, and Phoenician or Arabic word gāmāl.

Table of Contents


The Protylopus was the earliest known camel, and it lived in North America 40 – 50 million years ago (mya) during the Eocene era. Its size was as small as rabbits and lived in the open woodlands of what is now known as South Dakota.

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35 million years ago (mya), Poebrotherium had a similar trait to llamas and camels but was the size of a goat. The hoofed Stenomylus, which existed around that time, walked on the tips of its toes. The long-necked Aepycamelus metamorphosed in the Miocene.

The still existing Old World camels had an early relative called Paracamelus, which existed in the upper Miocene to Middle Pleistocene.

Around 3 to 5 million years ago, the North American Camelidae spread out to the Southern part of America as the Great American Interchange through the aid of the newly formed Isthmus of Panama. This gave rise to the guanacos and related animals and also to Asia via the Bering land bridge.

At the beginning of 2006, some surprising finds of Paracamelus fossil on Ellesmere Island in the high Canadian Arctic indicate that the still existing Old World camels might be descendant from a large boreal ancestor.

The ancestor might have had a hump that evolved as an adaptation to cold climate. This creature was estimated to stand around 2.7 metres (9 ft) tall.

According to the fossil records, one million years ago (mya), the Bactrian camel diverged from the dromedary. Camelops hesternus was the last camel found in North America, and it vanished along with short-faced bears, horses, mastodons, mammoths, sabre-tooth cats, and many other megafaunas.

Scientific classification



  • Camelus bactrianus (Bactrian)
  • Camelus dromedaries (Dromedary)
  • Camelus ferus (wild Bactrian)
  • †Camelus gigas (fossil)
  • †Camelus grattardi (fossil)
  • †Camelus knoblochi (fossil)
  • †Camelus moreli (fossil)
  • †Camelus sivalensis (fossil)
  • †Camelus thomasi (fossil)
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The average lifespan of a camel is 40 – 50 years. A full-grown dromedary stands 6 ft 1 in (1.85 m) at the shoulder and 7 ft 1 in (2.15 m) at the hump. Bactrian camels are usually a foot taller than the dromedary camel.

Camels can run at up to 40 mph (65 km/h) in short bursts and sustains speeds of up to 25 mph (40 km/h). Bactrian camels weigh 660 – 2,200 lb (300 – 1,000 kg) and dromedaries 660 – 1,320 lb (300 – 600 kg).

The toes are mobile, which can create a wide space on a camel’s hoof, and this provides a supplemental grip for different soil sediments. A male dromedary has an organ called a dulla in its throat.

It is a large inflatable sac that extrudes from the mouth when trying to attract females and rut to assert dominance. It looks like a long, swollen, pink tongue hanging at the side of its mouth.

Camels mate by having the female sit on the ground while the male mounts from behind. The male usually ejaculates 3 – 4 times within a single mating season. The only ungulate that mate in a sitting position is the Camelids.


Camels are not picky eaters and use their thick lips to eat things that most animals wouldn’t, such as thorny plants. Camels are herbivores, which means their diet is based on plants.

One important thing about camels is filling up water whenever it is available. They can drink 113 litres (30 gallons) of water in just 13 minutes. Camels rehydrate faster than any other mammals.

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According to the University of Singapore, when there is little to no water and food, the camel’s hump, which is made up of fat, releases water. The hump releases 1.13 grams of water per 9.3 grams of fat.



The two types of camels found in different parts of the world are the dromedary and Bactrian. The dromedary camel, also called the Arabian camel, can be found in the Middle East and North Africa.

The Bactrian camel is native to Central Asia. No matter the species, camels are usually found in prairie, steppe, or desert.

People think camel can only survive in hot climates, and they also adapt well in temperature that ranges from -29 degrees C (20 degrees F) to 49 degrees C (120 degrees F).


A group of camels staying together is called a herd, while a group of male camels is called a bachelor herd. The dominant male leads the herd, and they are social animals that greet by blowing each other in the face.


After a gestation of 12 – 14 months, the mother camel will find a safe spot to have her offspring. Female camels have only one baby, but rare cases occur where camels have twins.

Baby camels are regarded as calves.  A newborn calf walks within 30 minutes after birth. The mother and the newborn join the herd two weeks after the birth. A camel becomes fully matured at 7 years of age. The lifespan of a camel is around 17 years.

Facts on camel

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

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