Bactrian Camel

Bactrian Camel

Mongolian camel

Camelus bactrianus
Population size
above 1 mln
Life Span
20-50 yrs
64 km/h
300-1,000 kg
180-230 cm
225-350 cm

The Bactrian camel is a large mammal native to the steppes of Central Asia. Its population exists mainly in the domesticated form. Its long, wooly coat varies in color from dark brown to sandy beige. There is a mane and beard of long hair on the neck and throat, with hairs measuring up to 25 cm (9.8 in) long. The two humps on the back are composed of fat (not water as is sometimes thought). The face is long and somewhat triangular, with a split upper lip. The long eyelashes, along with the sealable nostrils, help to keep out dust in the frequent sandstorms which occur in their natural range. The two broad toes on each foot have undivided soles and are able to spread widely as an adaptation to walking on sand. The feet are very tough, as befits an animal of extreme environments.


Bactrian camels are found in Central Asia. They are migratory, and their habitat ranges from rocky mountain massifs to flat arid desert, stony plains, and sand dunes. These animals live in extremely harsh conditions where vegetation is sparse, water sources are limited and temperatures range from as low as −40 °C in winter to 40 °C in summer. Bactrian camels' distribution is linked to the availability of water; large groups congregate near rivers after rain or at the foot of the mountains, where water can be obtained from springs in the summer months, and in the form of snow during the winter.

Bactrian Camel habitat map



Climate zones

Habits and Lifestyle

Bactrian camels are diurnal, sleeping in the open at night and foraging for food during the day. With tough mouths that can withstand sharp objects such as thorns, they are able to eat plants that are dry, prickly, salty or bitter, and can ingest virtually any kind of vegetation. Bactrian camels are exceptionally adept at withstanding wide variations in temperature, ranging from freezing cold to blistering heat. They have a remarkable ability to go without water for months at a time, but when water is available they may drink up to 57 liters at once. When well-fed, the humps are plump and erect, but as resources decline, the humps shrink and lean to the side. When moving faster than a walking speed, the pace, by stepping forwards with both legs on the same side (as opposed to trotting, using alternate diagonals as done by most other quadrupeds). Bactrian camels are social animals and travel across the desert in caravans. They may run as fasts as 65 kilometers per hour (40 mph), but they rarely move this fast. These camels are also said to be good swimmers. Their sense of sight is well developed and the sense of smell is extremely good.

Seasonal behavior

Diet and Nutrition

Bactrian camels are omnivores but primarily herbivores and eat various types of plants. When other nutrient sources are not available, these camels may feed on carcasses, gnawing on bones, skin, or various different kinds of flesh. In more extreme conditions, they may eat any material they find, which has included rope, sandals, and even tents.

Mating Habits

13 months
1-2 calves
3-5 years

Bactrian camels are polygynous animals, which means that one male mates with multiple females. Males during the mating time are often quite violent and may bite, spit, or attempt to sit on other male camels. Gestation lasts around 13 months. One or occasionally two calves are produced, and the female can give birth to a new calf every other year. Calves are born precocial and are able to stand and run shortly after birth; they are fairly large at an average birth weight of 36 kg (79 lb). The young are nursed for about 1.5 years and stay with their mother for 3 to 5 years until they become reproductively mature; they often help raise subsequent generations for those years.

Population number

According to Wikipedia resource, the total population size of the Bactrian camel is more than 1,000,000 individuals. With estimated populations of the species in the following areas: Mongolia - 430,000 individuals; China - 270,000 individuals; Kazakhstan - 200,000 individuals; Kyrgyzstan - 50 individuals; Uzbekistan - 10,000 individuals; Iran - more than 100 individuals; Pakistan - 200 individuals; Turkmenistan - 2,500 individuals; India - 150 individuals; and in Russia - 100,000 individuals.


The Bactrian camel is thought to have been domesticated sometime before 2500 BC in Northeast Afghanistan or southwestern Turkestan. Domesticated Bactrian camels have served as pack animals in inner Asia since ancient times. With their tolerance for cold, drought, and high altitudes, these animals enabled the travel of caravans on the Silk Road. As pack animals, Bactrian camels are also able to carry 170-250 kg (370-550 lb) at a rate of 47 km (30 miles) per day, or 4 km/h (2 mph) over a period of four days. Furthermore, Bactrian camels are frequently ridden, especially in desertified areas. In ancient Sindh, they were initially used by the rich for riding and later were brought to other areas such as Balochistan and Iran for the same purpose.


Fun Facts for Kids

  • Bactrian camels are most famous for their two large humps on their back rather than the single-humped Dromedary camels. These humps do not serve as a reservoir for water, contrary to popular belief. Instead, they contain energy-rich fat, which a camel metabolizes for energy when there is little food available.
  • The name of these camels comes from the ancient historical region of Bactria in Central Asia.
  • Bactrian camels, whether domesticated or feral, are a separate species from the Wild Bactrian camel, which is the only truly wild (as opposed to feral) species of camel in the world.
  • Bactrian camels belong to a fairly small group of animals that regularly eat snow to provide their water needs.
  • Bactrian camels will hardly ever sweat, and this enables them to conserve water.
  • Camels are able to withstand changes in body temperature and water consumption that would kill most other mammals. Their temperature ranges from 34 °C (93 °F) at dawn and steadily increases to 40 °C (104 °F) by sunset, before they cool off at night again. In general, to compare between camels and the other livestock, camels lose only 1.3 liters of fluid intake every day while the other livestock lose 20 to 40 liters per day.
  • Bactrian camels have been the focus of artwork throughout history. For example, western foreigners from the Tarim Basin in Northewest China and elsewhere were depicted in numerous ceramic figurines of the Chinese Tang dynasty (618-907).


1. Bactrian Camel on Wikipedia -

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