One way to recognize camels of the Camelid family is by the hump on its back; it could be one or two, depending on the species.
This hump stores fat, and during times of scarcity, it provides nourishment for the camel.
The hump will become limp and droop if the camel uses up the fat inside it and will return to its normal size once the animal is well-rested and has eaten enough food.
Most camels are domesticated, and their owners use them for food (milk and meat) or textile.
Plus, their body makeup makes them ideal animals for the desert and a reliable means of transporting people and cargo across long distances.
There are three extant camel species today: the dromedary camel (one-humped camel), which makes up about 94% of the total number of camels in the world, and the Bactrian camel (two-humped camels), which makes up the remaining 6%.
The Bactrian camel is further divided into two: the domesticated and the wild Bactrians.
Of the three species, the wild Bactrian is the only critically endangered species.
Read on to find out more about these species and their peculiarities.
1. Dromedary Camel (Camelus dromedarius)
The dromedary camel has the scientific name Camelus dromedarius and is also called the dromedary, the one-humped camel, or Arabian camel.
As one of its names implies, the dromedary has one large hump on its back—its most notable feature.
Another interesting thing to note about this species is that its the tallest camel species in the world; the males can reach a height of 6 -7.9 feet, and the females can be 5.6 – 6.2 feet tall.
These animals are also as heavy as they come, and the males usually weigh between 880 and 1,520 pounds, while the females can weigh between 660 and 1,190 pounds.
Besides their large hump, other features of the dromedaries include their narrow chest, long hairs on the hump, shoulders, and throat, and a long, curved neck.
The fur usually ranges between cream and brown, and they have large eyes and slit-like nostrils for enhanced senses.
There are about 15 million dromedaries worldwide, so these animals are out of the danger zone and nowhere near extinction.
These particular species have been domesticated for about 3,500 years.
In fact, for the past 2,000 years or more, the dromedary has not been seen roaming about in the wild.
Instead, they’re under the control of herders and are used as beasts of burden.
In fact, some cultures use these animals to measure wealth.
These animals are found primarily in southwestern Asia, northern India, the Middle East, and Africa, especially in the Sahara Desert.
2. Bactrian Camel (Camelus bactrianus)
The Bactrian Camel (Camelus bactrianus) is another animal in the Camelidae family, and its other names are the domestic Bactrian camel or the Mongolian camel.
Unlike its Arabian cousin, which has one large hump on its back, the Bactrian has two, making it easier for them to travel long distances without needing water.
Another feature that sets them apart is their long mane and thicker hair around the neck, head, tail, forelegs, and humps.
The Bactrian can reach an average height of 7 feet and a maximum weight of 1,500 pounds or even more.
In addition, while the dromedary dominates the Arabian and African regions, these species are found primarily in western China and central Asia.
The domestic Bactrian has a population of over one million, so like the dromedary, they’re not regarded as a threatened species.
3. Wild Bactrian Camel (Camelus ferus)
The wild Bactrian camel (Camelus ferus), locally called Khavtagi, is another camel species found in specific areas of China, i.e., the Taklamakan desert, Lake Lop, and Arjin Shan, as well as in the Great Gobi Desert of Mongolia.
The wild Bactrian was once thought to be a descendant of the domesticated Bactrian.
Still, recent studies have shown that both species split from the Bactrian camel about one million years ago, with one species becoming domesticated while the other feral.
However, the wild camel also has two stumps like its domestic counterparts, although there are specific differences in their appearances.
For instance, the wild Bactrian is smaller than the domestic one and has a more slender body. Its two humps are also relatively smaller and lower.
These animals are also well known for having a high saltwater tolerance; they can drink water that is saltier than seawater, something even domestic Bactrians cannot do.
They can also travel farther distances as well as withstand extreme temperatures than other species.
Unfortunately, less than 1,000 wild camels exist today, with the numbers dwindling daily due to hunting and predators.
About 30 of these species are killed annually in Mongolia and about 20 in China.
In 2002, IUCN listed them as critically endangered species, and sources reveal that if nothing is done to curb the killings of these animals, two or three generations from now, they will be extinct.
4. Feral Camel (Camelus dromedarius)
They are also dromedary camels (Camelus dromedarius), but they exist in Australia.
In the 19th century, several dromedaries were imported to Australia from Afghanistan and British India, mainly for construction and transport.
However, with the advent of better means of transportation, these animals were released into the wild, and they’re now a growing feral population in central and western Australia.
The increasing population of feral camels in Australia is a cause for concern, as these creatures are highly mobile and can cover a long distance in a short period.
Plus, since they tend to eat more trees and shrubs rather than grasses, they can move in their numbers to find their preferred diet.
As a result, these camels have occupied several significant areas in the country, including conservation lands, pastoral premises, Aboriginal lands, etc., negatively impacting Australia’s environment and economy.
To curb the feral camels, the authorities have resorted to management measures such as fencing off important areas, exporting and selling feral camels, and ground and aerial culling.
5. Hybrid Camels
A hybrid camel is a crossbreed of a male Bactrian camel and a female dromedary camel.
They have different names based on language and region; some popular ones include tülu, Turkoman, majen, iver, and inner.
The product of a male Bactrian and a female dromedary is also called an F1 hybrid camel, and it’s usually larger than both the Bactrian and the dromedary, weighing about 2,200 pounds and reaching 7.5 feet in height.
Due to their large build, hybrid camels are usually used as draft animals or for camel wrestling.
This breed is found in Turkey, Russia, Afghanistan, and Iram.
6. Guanaco (Lama guanicoe)
The guanaco, with the scientific name Lama guanicoe, is not a true camel but a related species of South American camelid that is similar in appearance to a small camel without a hump.
These animals can grow as tall as 4.3 feet, be as long as 7.2 feet, and weigh up to 310 pounds.
Their fur also ranges from dark cinnamon to light brown, with a shade of white in the lower parts of their body.
Guanacos are one of the biggest land animals in South America and can be found in the high Andes mountains of Argentina, Peru, and Chile.
The IUCN has listed these mammals as a species of least concern, as there are approximately two million guanacos in the world today.
However, the numbers have been reducing due to competition with other grazing animals and loss of habitat.
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