Facts about Camels

Camels are large and hardy animals that can survive well in arid climates. There are two species of camels namely, Dromedary, with one hump and the Bactrian with two humps. They provide milk, meat, and blood for nomadic pastoralists. In prolonged droughts where cattle, sheep and goats die, camels are the mainstay for human survival. Pastoralist use adult castrates for transport and as pack animal. They are also used for drawing water for domestic use. Some communities use them to pull ploughs. Camels are more drought resistant than cattle because they can browse on trees and shrubs due to their great height and can travel much further to graze in a day. They disperse when grazing thus prevent overgrazing.  Camels can tolerate a load of 350kg for two weeks walking a distance of about 25 km a day. Conversely, 150kg can be carried for 50km a day. The heaviest recorded lift by a camel was 865kg though there was no indication that it actually carried the load. The heaviest known recorded live weight of a camel was 1025kg (Crandell  1964).



The average weight for female’s camels is 400kg and 500kg for males. Blood forms about 5% of the live weight of a camel, or about 25kg in a 500kg animal. Average weight of fat in the hump of camels is 7% of carcass weight. Camel hide weigh between 22.5kg and 47kg or 8.5 to 11.8 percent of live weight. Camel milk is generally opaque white. It has sweet and sharp taste but sometimes it is salty. Taste generally depends on the type of fodder and availability of drinking water.

Camels reach puberty at 3-4 years. Females (cows) are smaller than males (bull). The heart rate is 35-42°C, Heart rate 30-50 per minute, breathing rate-5-12 p/m, onset of heat-24 months, length of heat-3-6 days, length of heat cycle-20-25 days, gestation period-375-390 days

Camels are herbivorous and chew the cud. They can live up to 50 years. They have 34 teeth. Due to their dusty and sandy habitat, they have thick eye lashes that protect them from dust and can also close their nostrils or minimize the opening. Their paddy hoofs too protect them from sinking in sand. They have strong hearing. They can drink up to 200 litres of water in a day.


Kenyan Camels
All of the camels endemic in Kenya are dromedaries or one-humped although recently lamas have been introduced. In Kenya camels are classified into different categories- dairy, beef, dual purpose and racing. Beef camels have well developed hindquarters, large hump, heavy bones and short neck. Dairy camels have a high milk yield, well developed adders and milk veins, and small hump. Dual purpose has medium body size and average milk production. Racing camels have a small head and ears, alert eyes, deep chest, long shoulders, and straight legs. During dry seasons, camels may be watered at intervals of two weeks. Camels can withstand 7 days of dehydration without affecting milk yield. Camels can be milked 5 times a day and still give the same amount each time. Camels do not have large adders for milk storage like cows.


Camel riding is very fascinating and enjoyable. It is great fun and worth it. However, like any other activity it is important to learn a few tips on how to ride it so that one would avoid some small mistakes that can spoil the party.

1 The main attribute of a camel handler is to be fearless and but friendly. Camels are intelligent and recognize emotions very quickly, and usually respond very soon.
2. Do not drink alcohol before and during camel riding
3. Make your camel lie down for both mounting and dismounting
4. Ensure the stirrups and saddles are tight and well fixed.
5. Ensure your legs rest well on the foot-rest
6. To keep your balance while the camel is standing up, lean
7. Put on relatively tight and non noisy clothing
8. Put on a hat to avoid sun-stroke
9. Use flat thin soled shoes
10 Do not apply strong perfumesunds
11. Do not make sudden gestures, movements or so
12. Approach the camel only from the left side
13. The leading rein should not be long and too loose
14. Pull back gently the leading rein if you want your camel to stop or slow down
15. To steer the camel to your desired direction,  loosen the leading rein a bit
16. Be alert when riding because anything can frighten the camel