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Bactrian Camel

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Scientific name: Camelus bactrianus

The basics:
The Bactrian camel is a large even-toed ungulate native to the steppes of central Asia. The Bactrian Camel is a member of the camel family. Other members of the camel family include the llama and the alpaca in South America. The Bactrian Camel has two humps on its back, in contrast to the Dromedary Camel which has one.

Nearly all of the estimated 1.4 million Bactrian camels alive today are domesticated. Small populations of wild Bactrian Camels can be found in remote regions of Mongolia, China and Kazakhstan.

Appearance / health:
Bactrian Camels are taller than Dromedary camels, and average 7 ft. tall at the shoulder. Their long, wooly coat varies in color from dark brown to sandy beige. The legs are long to elevate the body of the animal from the heat of the desert sand. Eyelashes and ear hairs are long, and nostrils can be shut closed to protect the eyes, ears, and nose from airborne sand and dust. Bushy eyebrows on a ridge of bone over the eyes protect the eyes from the glaring sun; a third eyelid helps sweep sand away from the eyeballs.

Hooves are wide to allow the camel to walk on the sand. Callous pads are present on the chest, back of the front leg joints and the front of the back leg joints to protect the camel from the hot sand when kneeling or resting.

The camel is fully adapted to life in the desert because it can tolerate extreme heat and a body temperature of up to 106F before it starts to sweat. Its hump is composed of fatty tissue that breaks down and supplies the animal with energy when food and water are scarce. The camel can withstand high levels of dehydration and weight loss before it goes into circulatory distress. Its blood cells are such that they can withstand osmotic pressure when the camel drinks large quantities of water (up to 40 gallons) at once.

Behavior / temperament:
Camels are calm and gentle animals that are easy to domesticate. They are able to carry loads of hundreds of pounds, and walk long distances under the harshest conditions. They can, however, also be overburdened and overworked enough to become ill and die. During mating season, male camels become aggressive and will often bite, spit at, and try to sit on other male camels.

Housing / diet:
Camels are omnivorous, feeding on all types of foliage, even thorny, dried desert plants. They also eat meat, fish, leather, fabric, paper, and mostly anything edible. If feeding on fresh plants, which provide moisture and fluids, the camel can survive for 50 days without water. Without plants to provide moisture, it will survive for 5 days without water.

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