Bactrian Camel – Facts, Information & Photos


The Bactrian camel is larger and more massive than Arabian camel. Its height along with the humps reaches 2.7 m, and the average weight is 500-600 kg.

Bactrian Camel

He has a dense, sinewy build. Elastic high humps are a sign of good fatness of the animal. The distance between the humps is usually about 30 cm, so a person easily fits in this convenient hollow. The wool has a brownish-sandy hue. It is quite long and dense. Each strand of wool is hollow inside, so the wool has a low thermal conductivity. Twice a year, in spring and autumn, Bactrian shed hair. He looks very slovenly and untidy at this time.


Domestic and wild Bactrian camels differ in the color and density of the wool, the build and the shape of the humps. Wild Bactrian camels are lighter, more slender, and the humps are smaller and more acute than in domestic ones.

Camel humps in the cold season are covered with thick wool, in warm – naked. Wool sheds unevenly, the old wool falls out in whole pieces. Each hump can store 36 kg of fat, which, being oxidized, emits water in bigger quantity, than the weight of consumed fat. At using up of fat reserves, the humps become flabby.

The camel has no hooves. On each foot there are two large fingers, based on the callosum skin thickening, lying on a keratinous sole. Two large claws protrude from the sole. Such limbs are adapted to walking on a stony desert and on soft sand. The legs are thick, strong and knotty. On the hind legs knee callosities are strongly developed. Callosities also are on the chest, elbows and heels.

The trunk of camel is rounded, the neck is long, curved, and the head is elongated. The ears are small, rounded, overgrowing with hair. The tail is long with a brush at the end.

The lips of camels are rigid, that allows them to eat thorns. The upper lip is forked.

Eyes are large with two rows of long eyelashes that protect the animal from winds and sandstorms. The eyebrows are dense, and it protects the eyes well from the bright rays of the sun. During sandstorms, camels close not only the eyes, but also their slit-like nostrils.

Diet of Bactrian Camel

Beautiful Bactrian Camel

These herbivores eat dry, thorny and salty plants, as well as leaves of trees, shrubs and semishrubs, Mongolian onions, barnyard grass, ephedra, tansy, feather grass, caragan, saxaul shoots, poplar leaves, reeds.

  • Camels also lick salt on saline.
  • Bactrians can eat the bones and skins of other animals. In emergency situations, they can chew ropes, sandals and even tents.
  • Wild Bactrian camels are constantly looking for food, and they don’t stay in the same place for too long. The herd usually passes up to 90 km a day.
  • Bactrian feeds in the morning and in the evening.
  • When animals find water, they drink as much water as it has been already spent, but not more than 114 liters.
  • Bactrians are able to drink salty and brackish water.


The International Commission of Zoological Nomenclature (ICZN) decided to separate the wild and domesticated forms of the Bactrian camel in 2003. The Latin name Camelus bactrianus was preserved for domestic animals, while wild camels were named Camelus ferus.

The active development of natural gas and oil production, the development of new deposits, general environmental pollution, sport and commercial hunting are among the factors that led to a dramatic decrease in the number of wild Bactrian camel. The world population of wild Bactrian camels has declined by about 80 per cent over the past three generations. Interbreeding with domestic camels also played a negative role. According to scientists, the wild population of Bactrian camel is reduced by 25-30 individuals annually. According to 2002 data, there were only 800 Bactrian camels in the wild.


Bactrian Camel face

The Bactrian camel lives in small amount in Central and Middle Asia, Mongolia and several isolated areas in northeast China, including Lob Lake, Arzhin Shan and Taklimakan Desert.

The name of the two-humped camel comes from the name of the ancient Asian region of Bactria and is used, mainly, in those cases when talking about domestic camels.

The first camels were imported to America (Texas) in 1856 for needs of the army.


The habitat of Bactrians are deserts and semi-deserts, dry steppes, rocky mountain ranges, stone dunes and canyons with rare vegetation and a lack of water sources.

Temperature fluctuations in the habitats of Bactrians reaches from – 40°C in winter and up to + 40°C in summer.


Unlike the wild Bactrian camels, the about 2 million domestic Bactrian camels are now distributed throughout China and Mongolia. Bactrian camels are active in the daytime and feed mainly on grass and bushes. Since the food can be very scarce, they are also able to feed on most dry shrubs and even thorny plants.

Excess fat is stored in the humps of camels, which enable camels to live without food and water for so long.


The Bactrian camel is a very hardy and viable animal. It excellently tolerates temperature changes, that are characteristic of harshly continental climate, can live without water for a long time and be content with rough low-nutritious forage. The only thing the animal doesn’t fit is the dampness. Camels live in herds, in which there are from 5 to 20 heads. In each herd there is a male leader, several females and young growth.

The Bactrian camels can live up to 40 years. During puberty, from about the age of 5, they produce their first offspring, and then give birth approximately every 2 years.

Sexual maturity can occur at the age of five–eight years. Rutting season occurs in autumn, during this period the males show their strength and superiority in every possible way. They drive females into groups and constantly control their behavior. On the back of the head, the camel has glands, with the secretions of which it marks the territory, bending the neck and touching the earth with the back of head. A female can give birth to a baby once every two years, and the pregnancy lasts about 13 months. From the first moments of life, the camel-calf follows the mother; he remains near her on breastfeeding for another year and a half.

It is interesting that the Bactrian and Arabian camels can interbreed, giving viable offspring. However, males, that born from representatives of two different species, are no longer able to become parents.

The Bactrian camel is perfectly adapted to feeding plants of steppes and deserts. Ephedra, saltwort, onions – this is not the whole list of what Bactrian likes. Water is necessary for animals for life; in the places of the habitation they are strongly attached to reservoirs and springs. Large groups of camels accumulate after rains on the banks of rivers or at the foot of the mountains, where temporary spills are formed. In winter, animals to quench their thirst use snow, thus restoring water reserves in an organism. Wild individuals, in contrast to domestic ones, can drink salty water.

The main enemies of the Bactrian camel are a tiger and a wolf. In addition, it is highly prone to various diseases.


Bactrian Camel in zoo

Bactrian Camel in zoo

The Bactrian camel is a calm and patient animal; it is active during the daylight hours. The most part of night and in the hottest hours in the afternoon camels rest. They are located on a flat open plot of land or near a bush to notice enemies in time.

While all have a rest, the leader is on guard. At the slightest danger, he gives a signal and all the animals leave for several kilometers without stopping.

Bactrians have well-developed sight and sense of smell, animals can see a moving object at a distance up to 1 km. Two-humped camels run quickly – up to 60 km/h.

In cold weather, camels move on southward and try to be near the mountains or oases (not occupied by man). Camels, like all animals from the suborder Tylopoda (llamas, alpacas, vicunas, etc.) can spit a chew in each other.

Bactrian can spit in a man if he considers that it is dangerous, but this happens rarely. Defending itself, the camel kicking like a horse, it can bite, and some even trample down forelegs.

During hurricanes, animals can lie motionless for several days. In a strong heat, they fan with tails and loll out (as dogs).

Camels come to the sources of water every few days, if the source is inaccessible – then 2-3 weeks camels do without water, eating juicy plants. They swim well. Camels move an amble.


The two-humped camel was domesticated approximately 2,500 years BC. The process took place independently in several countries. Exceptional endurance has made him the main domestic animal of many Asian people.

The famous Russian researcher Przhevalsky first described the wild Bactrian camel as a species in 1878.

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