Camels are known to grow up to 10 feet (3 m) long and weigh between 1300 and 2200 pounds (590-1000 kg).
Now that is some big animal, isn’t it?
And you’d be forgiven to think that such a large beast would have no predators, but the situation is quite different.
In this article, we will be looking at what eats camels, who the main camel predators are, do camels prey on other animals, and what camels do to protect themselves from danger.
What Eats A Camel?
Now before answering the question “what are camel predators”, we need to consider one important thing about it, the animal’s habitat.
Different types of camels cover different territories of the world and therefore have different species of animals preying on them.
The main camel’s natural predators are lions, leopards, tigers, wolves, and humans.
In the evolutionary history of camels, humans, especially in the last 15 000 years or so, played a major part in hunting camels.
For example, the last camel living in North America, Camelops, was being hunted so much for its fur and meat that it was ultimately brought to extinction.
And yes, camels originated in North America, in case you didn’t know.
What Eats a Camel In the Desert?
Next, let’s take a look at what eats a camel in the desert.
It is worth noting that because camels inhabit mostly barren and inhospitable areas, they haven’t had too many predators in such areas.
However, when it comes to semi-desert parts of their territory, camels do have predators.
Camel predators in the desert areas mostly include lions, tigers, and somewhat leopards.
Before the 20th century, in the desert regions of North Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, there were two species of lions hunting camels: the Barbary, also known as the Atlas lion, and the Asiatic lion.
The extinct Caspian tiger is also known to have hunted camels in the regions of Central Asia.
Arabian and Asiatic leopards are also known to have ambushed and attacked camels.
Even though camels got domesticated and protected by humans several thousand years ago, and were actively used for the transport of goods on the Silk Road, there have been lots of cases of tigers attacking the caravans. At least when many of those predators inhabited territories that matched the ones of camels.
Read More: Tiger vs Kodiak Bear
Bactrian Camel Predators
Historically, Bactrians have had several natural predators – wolves, tigers, and leopards.
The numbers of these wild cats have been decreasing, and with that, so have the numbers of attacks by them on camels.
With their territory being greatly reduced, there have been very little, to almost none encounters between camels and tigers, lions, and leopards.
On the other side, with the increase in temperatures in deserts, and the reduction of available green areas and drinking water, there has been an increase in cases of wolves attacking Bactrian camels. Less drinking springs mean a higher possibility of encountering other dangerous predators at the available ones, and a bigger chance of camels having to run away.
And their main predator has definitely been the grey wolf.
Wolves are known to prey on weaker, smaller, and injured camels in search of food and water.
With a walking speed of 3.5 mph and a running speed of around 15 mph, a healthy camel would certainly be able to outrun a wolf.
Wild Bactrian Camel Predators
Wild Bactrian Camels are species of camel living in Remote areas of northwest China and Mongolia.
They are endangered camels with only a thousand of them currently in existence.
One thing that has led to that is being preyed on by different species.
According to zoologists, the main Wild Bactrian camel predators are wolves, leopards, and humans.
Humans have played a big part in camel numbers getting reduced. In China, in the Lop Nor region, illegal gold miners were killing a big number of these camels for food, fur, and skin. Also, farmers were known to kill the animal, because it invaded their pastures.
More and more droughts in the region would mean that the number of available water sources is reduced, making it more possible for Wild Bactrian camels to encounter wolves in the region.
Australian Feral Camel Predators
Australian feral camels are dromedary camels introduced to Australia in the 19th century.
Australian Feral Camels do not have predators, although they might get attacked by an Australian wild dog, Dingo, in case their territories overlap.
Other than dingo, Australian Wild camels do not have other threats in the Land Down Under.
Further reading: 10 facts about Australian feral camels
Do Camels Prey?
Another common question about camels is: are camels predators or prey?
And before we answer that, let’s explain whether camels are herbivorous, carnivorous, or omnivorous.
It is known that herbivores mostly feed on vegetation, carnivores feed on meat, and omnivores eat a mixture of meat and vegetation. (A rather balanced diet, eh?)
Camels are herbivores and mostly feed on plants and vegetation. As such, camels do not prey on other animals.
However, if there is not enough food available, a camel can resort to eating meat, skin, and bones.
But only of the carcass, that they find in the desert; they will not hunt other animals.
Did you know that camels can eat cactuses and do not get injured by the thorns? The secret to that is in their special tongue and mouth. Make sure to check our article on that.
Staying Safe From Predators
Camels are not the best equipped to fight off predators. Their main tactic to surviving predator attacks was to retreat into the desert and other inhabitable areas where their predators would find it hard to survive.
However, when the predators do attack them, camels have several defense mechanisms to protect themselves: camels mostly kick attackers with their long and strong legs and are also known to bite and spit to protect themselves.
When a camel feels threatened, it will regurgitate food from its stomach, mix it with saliva, and then spit it out at the threat.
It is said that such a projectile can fly almost 100 feet away from the animal (30m).
Throughout their history, camels have been preyed on by different species.
Most of them include wolves, lions, tigers, and leopards.
Several hundred years ago, they were actively hunting camels.
However, the alarming drop in numbers of these wild camels in combination with the shrinkage of the territory they inhabit has led to a decrease in their attacks on camels.
Some subspecies of tigers and lions have almost gone extinct and have no contact with the camels anymore.
Wolves are now considered to be the main camel predators, with humans being part of that list as well.
Altho they have domesticated camels and provided them protection, there is big historical evidence that they have played a big part in the extinction of some camel species (e.g. Camelops).
They continue to hunt them for their valuable camel fur, skin, and meat, bringing some camel species (like Camelus Ferus) to the edge of extinction.