There are six members of the family Camelidae. Two of these are 'true' camels; one living in Asia and the other in Arabia and North Africa. The other four members of the family are the South American 'camels', better known to us perhaps, as llamas.

The Bactrian Camel

Bactrian CamelThe Bactrian or Asian camel has two humps, a dark brown, thick, long-haired coat and hard feet which enable it to traverse difficult rocky ground. Compared to the domesticated Asian camel, the wild Bactrian is much slimmer and less hairy. It also has a shorter muzzle and ears, smaller feet and smaller, upright humps.

The Asian camels we see in zoos and wildlife parks are the heavier domesticated variety, bred for centuries past as 'beasts of burden', so their appearance can be rather misleading.

It is believed that between 400 and 900 wild Bactrian camels still survive in the vast and inhospitable wastes of the Gobi Desert in Mongolia. The wild population of Bactrian camels has been seriously reduced in recent years because of intense hunting by Man, or the inability of the camels to compete with domestic livestock for the limited supply of food provided by the sparse vegetation of the desert.

Remarkably well adapted to extremes of climates though they are, the camel herds will move from the heat of the stony desert up into the mountainous regions during the hottest months of the year. Here they may be found at heights of 3,000m (10,000ft) or more before they descend back into the desert again with the onset of winter.

The Bactrian camel takes its name from the ancient land of Bactria that once existed to the north-east of Persia.

Read More: The Arabian Camel

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