What Do Camels Eat?

Since food is scarce in arid habitats, camels cannot afford to be choosy about the plants they eat.
Since food is scarce in arid habitats, camels cannot afford to be choosy about the plants they eat.

A camel is an animal belonging to the Camelidae family with a distinctive hump at its back. The even-toed ungulate has been largely domesticated by man and serves to provide a means of transportation, milk, and meat. On a broad scale, the animals can be divided into two categories namely dromedary and Bactrian camels. The former type has one hump while the latter has two humps. Bactrian camels are native to the central parts of Asia while the dromedary is native to Northern Africa and the Middle East. Regardless of the type and location, these animals are similar in their diet and feeding mannerisms.

How Big Are Camels?

The animals have an average lifespan of between 40 and 50 years with an adult capable of having a shoulder height of at least six feet and at least seven feet at the hump. On average, the animals weigh between 660 pounds and 2,200 pounds. Since they are even-toed ungulates, all this weight is divided equally between the third and the fourth toe.

What Do Camels Eat?

Camels are purely herbivores that usually graze throughout the day since their habitats have scarce food. After grazing throughout the day, camels regurgitate the food in the stomach and chew it again before swallowing it again. This act of regurgitating food is known as rumination. For this reason, camels have four stomachs that allow for maximum food processing.

Since the food is scarce in their arid habitats, camels cannot afford to be choosy about the food they eat. The animals eat almost all parts of a plant including twigs, green shoots, and stems. However, they avoid eating poisonous plants. The diet even extends to thorny plants such as the saltbush, which is usually overlooked by other animals. In some parts of the world, camels have been observed eating cacti while ignoring the long spikes. Experts say that the long thorns of the cacti and other thorny plants are likely a bother that the camel ignores in order to get to the fleshy parts. The animal can eat such tough vegetation because of the hard palate on the upper sides of their mouths. Those camels living close to oases have access to a wider variety of greener plants.

Do Camels Drink Water?

During hot conditions, camels can go for days without water and survive massive amounts of dehydration. For example, the dromedary camel can survive by drinking water once every two weeks or so. During winter, when there is more food, this period of surviving without water is increased as greener plants means that camels get water from the plants while grazing. The duration of this extended period of survival without water depends on the greenness of the plants. When they come across water, camels can drink up to 200 liters of water, which is about 53 US gallons.

Why Do Camels Have Humps?

Contrary to popular belief, the hump’s purpose is to store fat, not water. The fat, which can weigh as much as 80 pounds, is essential for the nourishment and survival of the animal when water and food become even scarcer. The fat stored there is capable of sustaining the animal for a few weeks. The breakdown of this fat causes an overall decrease in the water of the animal.


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