Are Camels And Horses Related?

Even though all livings species are related if you go back into the evolutionary past, camels and horses are not that closely related. Camels are more closely related to llamas, alpacas, vicunas, and guanacos; horses are more closely related to donkeys and zebras.

Camels and horses share some relation, as they are both members of the same kingdom (Animalia) and class (Mammalia). They are also ungulates (members of the clade Ungulata) or simply said, hoofed mammals. 

This is where their kinship stops, as camels and horses belong to different orders. 

are camels and horses related

There are two major groups of hoofed mammals living today:

  • Perissodactyla (odd number of toes)
  • Artiodactyla (even number of toes)

Camels are members of the order Artiodactyla and they bear their weight on an even number of their toes, their third and fourth. Besides camels, these include pigs, hippos, antelopes, deer, giraffes, llamas, alpacas, sheep, goats, cattle, etc.

Horses are members of the order Perissodactyla and they bear their weight on one of their toes, their third. The order also includes asses, zebras, rhinos, and tapirs.

Camels are not part of the horse family; the animals belong to different families, camels to the Camelidae, and horses to the Equidae family.

The Camelidae family includes dromedary, Bactrian, and Wild Bactrian camels, llamas, alpacas, vicunas, and guanacos; the Equidae family includes horses, donkeys, asses, and zebras. 

What camels and horses have in common, is that they both originated in North America and shared a common ancestor about 80 million years ago, in the Mesozoic Era.

The evolutions of camels and horses follow similar paths. 

Camels and horses both originated in North America, each of their ancestors appeared some 50 million years ago, both started as small animals, lived in forests, and browsed on soft vegetation. 

As the climate changed, both species became bigger, developed longer legs, tougher teeth, adapted to running in open grasslands, and eating grasses. 

Similar to camelids, horses spread to Europe, Asia, Africa, and South America, before becoming extinct in North America some 8,000 years ago. [1

Camels went extinct in North America about 10,000 years ago, when Camelops, the last North American camel, disappeared. 

Further reading: Is a camel smarter than a horse?

Can Camels And Horses Breed?

Camels and horses can not breed. They are not that closely related species for the breeding to succeed. 

For a camel and a horse to breed, they need to share similar genes. These two are not genetically similar enough to be able to reproduce successfully together.

However, there have been several unverified cases at the beginning of the 20th century about creatures that were supposedly camel-horse hybrids.

A newspaper report from 1902 mentions one case in which a horse mated with a circus camel: [2]

A curiosity in the shape of a colt with a camel’s head and one large eye in the center of the forehead was born this morning at the ranch of Samuel Parker, near Milpitas. 

The animal otherwise is a perfect specimen of a thoroughbred colt and well developed. A nose was lacking and as it could only breathe through its mouth it lived but a short time. 

The jaws and lower part of the head are those of a camel. The lower jaw is very long, while the upper one and the lip are short. On the upper lip is hair the same as on a camel’s lip and the mouth resembles that of the humped animal. 

Above the mouth is an abnormal eye, as large as two ordinary ones. This optic is open. Above on either side of this cyclopic member are two other eyes. They are covered with the skin but can be plainly felt. The ears are those of a horse but are turned around more than ordinarily. 

The mother of the colt was at the racetrack this winter while Norris & Rowe’s show was in quarters there and the monstrosity is supposed to have been due to a prenatal influence.

And in 1906, The Barre Daily Times published an article saying: [3]

Strange freak, half horse and half camel, absolutely the only living one; puzzles scientists, performs rare and amusing feats. On exhibition day and evening at Labelle’s livery, North Main Street. Don’t miss this. Admission a dime.

Perhaps they were just advertising tricks to bring more visitors to the show? 

Camels and horses are not that closely related. They are both members of the Animalia kingdom and the Mammalia class. However, they belong to completely different orders. Camels are members of the Artiodactyla order (even-toed hoofed mammals), while horses belong to the Perissodactyla order (hooved mammals with the odd number of toes).

When it comes to another member of Artiodactyla, moose, camels are not so strongly related to them.

On the other hand, camels are related to llamas, but also alpacas, as they all belong to the same family.

We hope you found our article interesting where we answered the question “are camels and horses related”.


References

[1] Thompson, Ken. “Where do camels belong.” The Story and Science of Invasive Species (2014): 47-48.

[2] California Digital Newspaper Collection, www.cdnc.ucr.edu
[3] The Library of Congress, www.loc.gov

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