Camels - The Desert Workhorse
The Arabian camel is a desert animal. If necessary, it can go without food for days at a time. The hump on the camels back is fat and this fat serves as stored food. The camel can also go without water for long periods of time but scientists are just beginning to understand how it does this.
The camel is also suited in other ways to desert life. Its broad, padded feet stay on top of sand as the camel walks. When sand blows, the camel can shut its nostrils into slits. And it has thick pads on its knees. It kneels comfortably on these.
The Arabian camel is sometimes called the ship of the desert. Used as a beast of burden, it can carry several hundred pounds. Slightly smaller camels are raised for riding. One humped camels are sometimes called dromedaries.
Arabian camels are mostly raised in the deserts of North Africa and Arabia. They all have one hump. They eat the leaves of desert plants. They belong to the big group of animals called hoofed mammals.
Another kind of camel lives on the dry, cold plains of central Asia. This is the Bactrian camel. It has two humps on its back. It also has long hair. The Bactrian camel can carry a pack over thick snow in below-zero weather. It can stay alive on scrub plants that few other animals would eat. People of the Asian plains raise the camel for milk, meat, hides, and hair for making cloth.
The camels closest relatives are four animals of South America: the guanaco, vicuna, llama, and alpaca.
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