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What is a Dromedary?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 09 November 2016
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A Dromedary, or Arabian camel, is a species of sandy brown to caramel colored camel found in North Africa and Western Asia. It is used extensively as a beast of burden in these areas, since it is well adapted to harsh conditions and long travel.

Dromedaries have one hump, while the other type of camel, the Bactrian camel, has two. Bactrians are also slightly smaller, and more adapted to extremely cold weather. Dromedaries are also used as work or pack animals in other parts of the world, and many zoos keep them as well.

The formal name for the Dromedary is Camelus dromedarius. The camels were domesticated somewhere between 4,000 and 1,500 BCE, and are totally extinct in the wild. A feral population of Dromedary camels can be roaming Australia, but these camels are not technically wild, since they are escapees from a captive population. In addition to being a pack animal, the Dromedary has also historically been used as a source of food, and some camels are bred for racing, especially in the Middle East.

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Several unique adaptations make the Dromedary camel extremely hardy and able to survive in extreme conditions. The first is the famous hump of the camel, which is actually filled with a fat reserve, not water. The camels can use the hump for nourishment during periods of starvation, and they can survive up to four days without food or water. Unlike other animals, the Dromedary can also survive extreme elevations in body temperature, which allow it to conserve water because it does not have to sweat to cool down.

The eyelashes of the Dromedary are very long, to protect the animal's eyes from wind and dust. In addition, Dromedaries can close their nostrils during dust storms so that sand and dirt do not enter their lungs. Leathery pads on their knees and stomach allow them to kneel and lie on hot sand, while their broad two toed feet act almost like snow shoes on the slippery sands of the desert.

Like most other ungulates, the Dromedary is an herbivore, with leathery lips adapted to eating thorny branches and other hostile plants. The gestation period for the animals is a little over one year, and the young camels live with the mothers for approximately a year before becoming fully independent. The unique strengths of the Dromedary have made it an important cultural and economic addition to many societies, and the camels continue to be extensively used throughout North Africa and the Middle East. Contrary to popular belief, the Dromedary is actually a very amiable and willing animal, and it will not spit at humans to express hostility, although the camels will spit at each other during conflicts over food.

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