African Savanna

Location in Zoo

African Veldt
6-7 feet
6-7 feet
10 feet
10 feet
1,000-1,500 lbs
1,000-1,500 lbs

6 years
3 years

Geographic Range

Europe, Africa, Asia; Middle East, northern India and arid regions in Africa, most notably the Sahara Desert

Scientific Information

Scientific Name:
Camelus dromedarius

Lifestyle and Lifespan

Activity Time Frame:
Sexual Dimorphism:
370-440 days
Lifespan in the Wild:
Lifespan in Captivity:
30-40 years




Dromedary camels are semi-domesticated animals, freely ranging, but under herdsman control. The earliest evidence for dromedary domestication dates to about 4,000 years ago on a small island off the Abu Dhabi coast. Northern Arabian tribes began to use dromedary camels as riding animals around 3,100 years ago. The only surviving feral herds of dromedary camels are those found in Australia. Introduced, feral dromedary camels were also found in the southwestern US until about 1905.Thought to have been first domesticated by people more than 5,000 years ago, these hardy animals have proved vital to the survival of humans in these areas as they are not just used for transporting both people and goods, but also provide a good source of milk, meat and wool.

Species Specifics

Dromedary camels are characterized by a long-curved neck, deep-narrow chest, and a single hump. The size of the hump varies with the nutritional status of the camel, becoming smaller and leaning to one side during times of starvation. The name "dromedary" is properly reserved for the Arabian racing camel such as those used in the various military camel corps. These camels can travel 80 to 120 miles per day carrying a rider. Arabian baggage camels have a heavier build and are capable of carrying a 200 kg load up to 40 miles per day.

Physical Characteristics

Cream to brown colored, short but thick fur protects their skin from sun during the day, and helps keep them warm when the temperature plummets at night. Long legs keep their body high above the hot ground, and their two toes on each foot are able to spread widely apart to prevent them from sinking into the sand. Bottoms of feet padded to help them in rocky or stony regions. Large eyes and nostrils give them good sight and smell. Double layer of long eyelashes and can close their slit-like nostrils to protect them from dust storms. Can survive for long periods of time without either food or water as they store fat in their hump which can be used to give the camel energy when resources are scarce. Callouses are present on knees and other parts of the body that touch the hot sand when the animal sits down. Able to drink brackish or salt water. Camels exhibit unusual tolerance for dehydration. Most animals perish when 20% of their body weight is lost, whereas camels survive a 40% loss of bodyweight without serious consequences. When water again becomes available, camels are able to restore their body water quickly; they have been known to drink one third of their body weight in 10 minutes.



Dromedary camels prefer desert conditions characterized by a long dry season and a short rainy season. Introduction of dromedary camels into other climates has proven unsuccessful as they are sensitive to cold and humidity.


Dromedary camels occupy arid regions of the Middle East through northern India and arid regions in Africa, most notably, the Sahara Desert. They have also been introduced to arid regions of central Australia where some of the only feral populations now persist. The original range of their wild ancestors was probably south Asia and the Arabian peninsula.


They eat primarily thorny plants, dry grasses and saltbush; however, they will eat most any desert plant.

Ecological Web

Herbivore. Primary Consumer.Eat primarily thorny plants, dry grasses and salt bush; however, they will eat most anything that grows in the desert. When foraging, camels tend to spread over large areas and select only a few leaves from each plant. This type of feeding behavior reduces the stress on the plant communities and eases competition with other arid region herbivores. Additionally, dromedaries need 6-8 more times as much salt as other animals for absorption and storage of water. Consequently, 1/3 of their food intake must be halophytic plants.

Activity and Behavior

Activity Pattern

Diurnal. Nomadic.


With the exception of rutting males, dromedary camels display little aggressive behavior. Dromedaries tend to travel by walking single file. Dromedary camels find comfort in scratching parts of their body with their front or hind legs, or with their lower incisors. They are also often observed rubbing against trees. And, they seem to like to roll in sand.

Social Behavior

With the exception of rutting males, dromedary camels display little aggressive behavior. Confrontations among dromedary camels include pushing each other with their whole body or lowered head and neck; snapping at each other within biting; and occasionally vomiting cud when they are hurt or excited.Dromedary camels usually form groups of 2 to 20 individuals. The basic social unit is the family, consisting of one male, and one to several females, subadults and young. The male is the dominant member of the family group and directs the family from the rear while the females take turns leading.

Reproductive Behavior

The onset of breeding season is believed to be cued by nutritional status of the camel and the day length. The gestation period typically lasts for a period of 15 months, followed by the birth of a single calf. Maternal care, including lactation, generally lasts for 1-2 years.


1-2 offspring. Female camels give birth to young once every 2 years. Breeding occurs in winter and overlaps with the rainy season. Calves can move freely by the end of their first day. Maternal care, including lactation, generally lasts for 1-2 years.



Since dromedary camels are domesticated, they have no special conservation status.


Fossil remains indicate that the camel family originated in North America. Only guanacos and vicunas may be found wild in the New World today. Llamas and alpacas have been domesticated. Camels exist only in the domesticated state in Africa and Asia. The Arabian camel has been successfully introduced into Australian desert regions where it is now feral. Attempts to introduce them into southern Europe and North America have failed.

Current Threats

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Fascinating Facts

Camels run like a giraffe with both legs on one side of the body moving simultaneously. The resulting rocking, shuffling gait gave rise to the term 'Ship of the Desert.'