Camels are Smarter Than Horses and Other Fun Facts about Camels
Did you know that camels were smarter than horses? I never thought much about camels and considered them neither attractive nor smart. However, living in Saudi Arabia has made me fall in love with these intelligent and cute animals.
Camels are Saudi national animals and called "ships of the desert" because they can easily move across desert sands and provide transportation for nomadic people. They are vital to the nomadic peoples existence, are considered members of the family and treated with great respect. Camels are an everyday sight in the Saudi landscape-- the caravans are roaming in the desert around highways, they are crowded in the backs of pickup trucks, and there are even races and beauty contests for camels.
Here are some fun facts about the majestic and smart camels.
CAMELS ARE SMARTER THAN HORSES
Camels are smarter than horses, indeed! They are intelligent and emotional animals, and form close bonds with humans. The typical domestic camel can be taught to follow specific commands, even though they can be stubborn at times.
Camels have a great memory, which I witnessed when a group of us visited a camel farm. The beautiful camel that I had fed and petted, found me later among twenty other visitors, marched straight to me to give me a little "kiss" and ask for more love and food.
CAMELS ARE CAPABLE OF HOLDING A GRUDGE
Harm them once and expect to die...according to the Saudi camel farmer. If handled badly, they can be quite dangerous. Since camels have a very good memory, they will remember if you've hurt them, and will try to take revenge if they can, usually with bites and kicks.
CAMEL HUMPS DO NOT HOLD WATER
Contrary to the popular belief, camels do not store water, but rather up to 80 pounds of fat in their humps. The fat breaks down into water and energy, and camels can live off that fat for as long as a month in the harshest desert conditions. When a thirsty camel finally arrives at a water source it can easily drink 30 gallons in a matter of minutes.
CAMELS CAN EAT PRICKLY DESERT SHRUBS AND ARE PROTECTED FROM THE FINE DUST
Camels have two rows of thick and extra-long eyelashes to protect their eyes from the desert dust. They are also able to close their nostrils and lips to keep out the dust.
Large, tough lips enable camels to pick at dry and thorny desert vegetation and the hard palate at the top of their mouths helps them grind food against it like a mortar and pestle.
They are herbivores and eat plants, grasses, herbs, and leaves. Domesticated camels are also fed grains, wheat and oats, as well as bread.
Camel's feet expand when bearing weight
Camels have big, thick and puffy footpads to help them navigate the the shifting desert sands and rocky terrain.
The pads are covered with thick, protective soles that provide a barrier against the hot desert sand.
When camels walk, it looks like they sink into soft cushions. Also, they walk by coordinating one side at a time.
Camel's hair can be made into coats and rugs
For centuries camels were the preferred mode of transporting goods and people across the harsh desert landscape, but it is also their hair that can put in to use.
Each camel produces about five pounds of hair per year. The hair fiber is double coated--one layer of long, coarse guard hairs, and an undercoat of soft, fine, downy fiber.
Fabric made of camel's undercoat has excellent insulating properties and is usually used for making soft and luxurious coats. The outer hair is used for making ropes and rugs. The traditional headbands of Arab men, agals, that hold the headscarves in place, are made of camel hair.
CAMEL MILK has more iron and vitamin C than cow's milk
Camel milk has long been a vital food source for the bedouins in the desert. It is more nutritious than milk from cows and sheep, and easier to digest. Camel milk contains high concentrations of vitamins and minerals, and the total protein content of camel milk is superior to other sources.
If you visit Abu Dhabi, make sure to stop at the Kempinski Emirates Palace for a camel milk ice cream cone topped with gold leaf. Read more in our blog post here: Best Things to Do in Abu Dhabi in the Summer Heat
Camels are celebrated for their beauty, grace and speed
Each year, Saudi Arabia holds the King Abdulaziz Camel Festival showcasing their best camels. Besides camel races, about 30,000 camels compete in a beauty pageant. Camel breeding is a big business and the festival hands out more than $30 million in prize money to owners of the winning camels.
But $30 million is enough for some to engage in cheating and in recent years some owners have gone to great lengths to enhance the beauty of their stock. In 2018 dozens of camels were disqualified because they had received Botox injections, and Saudi media reported that a veterinarian was caught performing plastic surgery on the camels a few days before the pageant.
Camels have traditionally been an important part of life in Saudi Arabia and even today, as the country rapidly modernizes, these majestic animals remain a central part of Saudi culture. To maintain international rules and standards relating to camels, the world's first camel organization, International Camel Organization (ICO), was established in March 2019 in Riyadh.