More than 3,000 years ago an ungainly but useful desert aimal was domesticatedin Arabia. It was the Arabian camel, a long-legged beast withone large hump onits back. It could cross hot deserts without needing much water, and it couldcarry heavy loads without tiring. The two-humped Bactrian camel of central Asiawas also domesticated long ago. It is sturdier than the Arabian and can carryheavier loads.
During the winter, its brownish hair is thick and long forprotection from the cold nights. It sheds is hair in patches in the spring, asthe weather warms up. Camels are hornless hoofed mammals. Their hoofs are likeleathery pads.
Their toes spread apart when they walk on sand o snow. Camels arecalled”ships of the desert” because they sway from side to side whenthey walk and carry loads. Some camels are trained for riding.
They kneel toallow riders to mount. A camel saddle must fit over the large single hump orbetween the two smaller humps. A special breed of Arabian camel, the dromedary,has been developed for riding and racing. It has longer legs and weighs lessthan a regular “baggage” camel. It can run at speeds up to 10 milesper hour. A camel’s hump is a large deposit of fat.
The camel’s body uses thefat as food when plant food is not available during long desert treks. Water isnot stored in the hump. Camels do not sweat so much as other mammals. They storewater in the body tissues and in pouches in the stomach, and use it very slowly.Tests have shoun that a camel can lose up to a quarter oof its body weight influids, without suffering any ill effects. Camels are still used by nomadicpeople of northern Africa and Asia. Camels cary loads where cars and truckscannont go.
They are also useful for their hides, hair, bones, meat, and milk. asoft fabric can be woven from their hair. There are camel-like animals in SouthAfrica. Relatives of the camel are important to the Indians of the Andes. Thellama was domesticated long ago as a beast of burden. The Inca Indians used itto carry metal ores from mines in the mountains.
It has long white or brownhair. The dark-colored alpaca has even longr hair, which is exported all overthe world adn made into fabric. Teh wool worn by Inca kings was woven from thevery soft, fine hair of the wild vicuna. The guanaco is the tallest of the SouthAmerican camel-like animals. The hair of the guanaco is too stiff to be useful.