Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Status: Extinct in the Wild
Originally native to northern Africa and western Asia, Dromedaries were first domesticated in central or southern Arabia some thousands of years ago. Experts are divided as to the date: some believe it was around 4000 BC, others as recently as 1400 BC. At present there are almost 13 million domesticated Dromedaries, mostly in the area from India to northern Africa. None survive in the wild, although there is an escaped feral population of about 700,000 in Australia.
The only other surviving species of camel today is the Bactrian camel. The Bactrian was domesticated sometime before 2500 B.C. in Asia, well after the Dromedary. The Bactrian camel is a stalkier, hartier animal being able to survive from the scorching desert heat of northern Iran to the frozen winters in Tibet . The Dromedary is taller and faster, with a rider they can maintain 8-9 mph for hours at a time. By comparison a loaded Bactrian camel moves at about 2.5 mph .
Camels were indigenous to the Sahara region but became extinct by the beginning of the last millenium BC. Domesticated camels were introduced to the region by the Persian invasion of Egypt under Cambyses. These camels were used through much of North Africa, and the Romans maintained a corps of camel warriors to patrol the edge of the desert. The Persian camels were not particularly suited to trading or travel over the Sahara. The rare journeys made across the desert were made on horse drawn chariots.
The stronger and more durable Bactrian camels first began to arrive in Africa in the fourth century. It was not until the Islamic conquest of North Africa that these camels became common. While the invasion was done largely on horseback the new links to the Middle East allowed camels to be imported en masse. These camels were well suited to long desert journeys and could carry a great deal of cargo. For the first time this allowed substantial trade over the Sahara.
Gestation in the Dromedary lasts around 12 months. Usually a single calf is born, and nursed for up to 18 months. Females are sexually mature after 3 to 4 years, males after 5 to 6 years. Lifespan in captivity is typically about 25 years, with some animals reaching the age of 50.
Adults grow to a length of 10 feet and height of six to seven feet. Weight is usually in the range of 1000-1500 pounds.
Modern domesticated Dromedaries are used for milk and meat and as beasts of burden for cargo and passengers. Unlike horses, Dromedaries kneel for the loading of passengers and cargo. At many of the desert located tourist sites in Egypt, Dromedary mounted police can be seen.
Dromedary and Bactrian camel hybrids (cross-breeding) ArabNet. (2002). A-Z of the Arabian Camel. Retrieved Jan. 21, 2005.
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