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camel, ruminant mammal of the family Camelidae. The family consists of three genera, the true camels of Asia (genus Camelus); the wild guanaco and the domesticated alpaca and llama, all of South America (genus Lama); and the vicuña, also of South America (genus Vicugna). The hooves on members of the family are much reduced, growing only on the upper surface of the outside toes of the feet.
The two species of true camel are the single-humped Arabian camel, or dromedary, Camelus dromedarius, a domesticated animal used in Arabia and North Africa, and the two-humped Bactrian camel (C. bactrianus) of central Asia. Some wild Bactrian camels exist in Turkistan and Mongolia, and Arabian and Bactrian camels imported by the British to Australia have become naturalized in parts of the continent. The humps are storage places for fat. Camels range in color from dirty white to dark brown and have long necks, small ears, tough-skinned lips, and powerful teeth, some of which are sharply pointed. The camel uses the mouth in fighting. Adaptations to desert life include broad, flat, thick-soled two-toed feet that do not sink into the sand; the ability to go without drinking for several days—or longer if juicy plants are available; and valvular nostrils lined with hairs for protection against flying sand. Horny pads help to protect the chest, knees, and thigh joints against injury from the hard surfaces on which the camel sleeps.
Strong camels usually carry from 500 to 600 lb (230 to 270 kg) and cover about 30 mi (48 km) a day. Some Bactrian camels can transport 1,000 lb (450 kg). A light, fleet breed of dromedary is used for riding and not for bearing heavy loads. The name dromedary was formerly applied to any swift riding camel.
Geologic findings indicate that the camel originated in North America, that one group migrated to Asia and the other to South America, and that both became extinct in North America probably after the glacial period. Camels are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Mammalia, order Artiodactyla, family Camelidae.
See studies by H. Gauthier-Pilters and A. I. Dagg (1981) and R. Irwin (2010).
(Camelus), a genus of the order Artiodactyla of the camel family (Camelidae). There are two species: the single-humped camel, or dromedary (C. dromedarius), height at the withers, up to 210 cm, color reddish-gray; and the double-humped, or Bactrian camel (C. bactrianus), height at the withers somewhat less, color dark-brown. Only the double-humped camel is found in the wild state; it roams in Asia (in the Sinkiang deserts and in southwestern Mongolia).
Distribution of camels is limited to desert zones and arid steppes. Camels cannot exist in mountains or locations with damp climates. In the process of evolution camels have developed a number of adaptations to conditions of deserts and arid steppes. Camels eat certain desert plants that are eaten rarely or not at all by other animals; they are satisfied with a minimal quantity of water and can drink salt water. In contradistinction to other ruminants, camels have two incisors in the upper jaw. The parts that touch the ground when they lie down are supplied with callous formations: camels have sternal, carpal, ulnar, and patellar calluses. As a result, camels are capable of lying down on extremely hot soil (up to 70° C). Both hooves of each foot are insignificant in size. Camels support themselves on their broad, soft paws; this facilitates walking on sand.
Camels have been domesticated since 2000 .B.C. The weight of an adult camel is 500-800 kg. Sexual maturity is attained by 2-3 years of age; females are allowed to mate at 3-4 years, males at 5-6 years. Gestation in female dromedaries lasts 13 months, in Bactrians 14 months. The females bear one offspring every two years. Newborn camels are very weak and require careful tending. The suckling period is 18 months. Camels are pasture animals; they graze only by day and at night lie down to rest and ruminate.
Under desert and arid-steppe conditions, camels are the most powerful pack and draft animals. The average pulling force of camels is 10-12 percent of their liveweight; average load mass carried on the back reaches 50 percent of the camel’s mass. Under a rider the camel, a pacer, covers about 100 km per day at a speed of 10-12 km/hr. Camels are worked from age 4 to 20-25 (they live 35-40 years). Milk, meat, and wool are also obtained from camels. Camel’s milk is used to prepare koumiss, butter, and cheeses. Average annual milk production in dromedaries is 2, 000 kg (in the arvana breed, over 4, 000 kg) with butterfat content of 4.5 percent; in Bactrians, 750 kg with 5.4 percent butterfat. The meat of young, well-fed camels is not inferior to beef in nutritive value; dressed yield is 50 percent. Camel’s wool contains up to 85 percent fleece, from which thin woolen fabrics are manufactured; it is valued more highly than coarse sheep’s wool. Beaver, high-quality knit fabrics, blankets, and other things are also manufactured from camel’s wool. It lends sturdiness to fabrics when blended with sheep’s wool. The clip of wool from a Bactrian is 5-10 kg (from the Kalmyk breed, up to 13 kg), and from a dromedary, 2-4 kg. The wool of Bactrians is of higher quality and greater value.
The most common diseases of camels include trypanosomiasis, >influenza, echinococcosis, camel plague, and mange.
I. I. LAKOZA