How Does A Camel Walk – Pacing Gait, Speed, Distance, And Animation

A camel has a broad pad that allows it to walk on flat terrain like the one found in the desert.

In other terrains, however, those wide padded feet are to some extent a disadvantage. For example, if a camel lives in areas with a lot of stones, or in wet, swampy areas, it might be hard for it to walk there.

There are species of camels that are exceptions to that rule. Camels herds that live near the river Nile, and camels that live in India that have adapted to such moist environments. 

We have covered those swimming camels of Gujarat in another article. 

In this article, we will examine the question “how does a camel walk”, examine camel walking speed, length traveled, and show camel walk animation.

Camel walking

How Does A Camel Walk?

Camel’s walking movement is simple: the front left leg and back left leg go forward at the same time, and then a front right leg and back right leg go forward at the same time. This prevents the camel’s legs from hitting one another as the animal speeds up, allowing it to have a faster, longer stride, and conserve energy. 

When it comes to walking, a camel has a digitigrade stance

Digitigrade animals are ones that walk on their digits. Their bones of the wrist, palm, ankle, and sole are raised from the ground. 

Camel’s feet are actually secondarily digitigrade, which means that camel has no hooves but broad cushion-like footpads adapted to walking on desert sand.

What actually separates camels from all other mammals when it comes to walking is their pacing gait

In a pacing gait, a camel walks by moving both the front and back leg of the same side of the body at the same time.

According to scientists, there are 3 types of gaits within the camels:

  1. Slow pace 
  2. Medium pace
  3. Fast pace

During a slow walking pace, a camel will have most of its weight all four of its legs during some part of its walking cycle. 

During a medium pace, also called the pacing gait, the animal will have its weight on two of its legs, front and back. It is suitable mostly for flat terrains.

During a fast pace, also called a gallop, there are moments where no camel legs are on the ground. 

It is worth noting that this type of running pace is not a normal gait to camels. They will only be seen galloping during camel races and when being chased away from water points.

Further reading: Facts About Camel Races

Camels are the only mammals that use this type of pacing gait instead of a trot. 

And this type of gait has lots of advantages and disadvantages. 

The main advantage of pacing gait is that the legs of camels can’t collide, in addition to a longer stride length, bigger speed, and higher efficiency when compared to regular trot.

On the other hand, the pacing gait makes the animal unstable. As they walk, camels tend to rock and shift weight from one side to the other, creating additional lateral instability. 

To fix this, camels developed their broad foot pad and a digitigrade stance to lessen this instability. In addition, other physical features of a camel were developed to help with that: narrow chest with broad, flat ribs, bigger limb abductor attachment areas, large scapular spine, expanded ridge on the dorsal ilium, and similar.

It is considered that a camelid called Protolabis was the first to develop a pacing gait about 20 million years ago. For other camel genera that followed, it can be said with certainty that Aepycamelus had a fully developed pacing gait and walked similarly to modern camels of today (Camelus).

How Far Can A Camel Travel In A Day?

Camels have been used for thousands of years for the transport of goods in Africa and the Middle East. 

Just imagine a huge yellow field of sand with only camel caravans cutting through the desert on a hot blazing day.

Because of their endurance and ability to save water, they seemed like a perfect fit to cross those terrains. 

Camels are able to travel between 25 and 100 miles per day (40-160km), depending on the camel species, the load, and the journey. Dromedary camels are said to be able to march up to 100 miles per day, while the Bactrian camels can only walk for 25 to 30 miles. On average, a camel will walk for about 12 hours a day during winter when being a part of a desert caravan.

If a journey is several weeks long, a camel will walk between 18 and 25 miles per day (30 to 40km). On journeys shorter than a week, a camel can cover between 50 and 60 miles in a day (80 to 100km). It is even said that strong male camels can walk more than 75 miles in a day (120km). 

According to some experts, if carrying a 600-pound load, a camel will be able to march 60 or 70 miles in a day. That’s why people call the camels “beasts of burden”.

Thanks to their wide and webbed feet, they are able to cross those great distances without spending too much energy or sinking into the sand while carrying cargo. This is why camels do not get shoes; it would just require more energy and have no benefits to the animal.

How Fast Does A Camel Walk?

The speed of a camel’s walk depends on several factors: the journey length, outside temperature, camel health, and size.

Usually, during the summer months, a camel will walk between 2.5 and 3.5 miles per hour (4-6 km/h). During the winter months, a camel will walk faster, between 4.9 and 6.2 miles per hour (8-10 km/h). Camel’s trot speed is said to be about 5 miles per hour (8km/h).

With those walking speeds, camels will not get you anywhere fast, but you can be sure they will take you to your destination, regardless of the outside temperature.

How Fast Does A Camel Run?

When it comes to running speed, a camel is actually a rather fast animal. As mentioned before, their pacing gait allows them to move faster and at the same time save energy, compared to other animals’ stride. 

Mature racing camels are able to run up to 40 miles per hour (65km/h) in short distances at a gallop. When it comes to endurance, they can maintain a speed of 15 miles per hour (25km/h) for about an hour or two.

The fastest speed recorded for a camel was 6.2 miles in just 17 minutes and 7 seconds, with an average speed of around 22 miles per hour (35km/h).

Do Camels Walk Slowly?

Next, let’s check if the walking speed of a camel is slow. For the comparison, we will take that a camel’s average walking speed is about 3.5 miles per hour (5.5km/h)

Compared to humans, camels walk a bit faster. Humans walk at a speed between 2 and 3 miles per hour. To keep up with the camels, humans would need to walk at a faster pace. The sand would make it even harder for humans to keep up with the camel.

In 1 minute a camel will make around 85-90 steps, with each stride 3.3 feet long (1m); a human will need to make around 130. 

Compared to horses, camels walk a bit slower, with a horse averaging a walking speed of 4.3 miles per hour.

Did you know that camels and horses are (kind of) related? Read more about it here.

Compared to elephants, camels also walk a bit slower. Elephants walk about 4.5 miles per hour.

Compared to dogs, camels are a bit faster. Dogs’ walk speed is about 2 to 3 miles an hour.

Here’s a table of walking speed comparisons between species:

SpeciesAverage walking speed
Camel3.5 mph
Human2.5mph
Horse4.5 mph
Elephant4.5 mph
Dog2.5 mph
Comparison of species average walking speed

Can A Camel Walk Backwards?

Now, we have explained how camels are masters at traversing long distances in the desert. But what happens with going in reverse? Can a camel walk backward?

A camel in fact can walk backward, although moving forward is more natural and easy for a camel.

You won’t be able to find many examples of a camel walking backward.

Camel Walking Animation

The only thing remaining is to show you a camel walking animation. 

Here are a few gifs of a camel walking. 

Pay attention to their leg movement. 

Can you see the legs on the same side moving at the same time?

Camel walking animation

Conclusion

Camel walk is one of the most unique elements of this animal. 

Looking back at camel history, they have developed their famous pacing gait as early as 20 million years ago. 

Walking with same-sided long front and back legs moving forward at the same time has allowed them to cross amazing distances during the day, walking up to 100 miles per day. 

Although rather slow, still faster than humans, walking speed of 3.5 miles per hour allowed them to walk for 12 hours a day while crossing the desert. 

Interested in learning more about how camels were used for transport in the desert? Check this article.

We hope that we answered your question “how does a camel walk“, and that you found our article interesting!

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