Do Camels Spit Out Their Stomachs?

If you ever stumbled upon a camel with some weird pink thing hanging on the side of its mouth, you must have asked yourself the question: wait, do camels really spit out their stomachs?

Many people seem to think that camels somehow throw up their stomachs or hearts to cool themselves down. 

That couldn’t be further from the truth. Here’s what’s really happening.

why do camels throw up their stomachs

Do Camels Spit Out Their Stomachs?

Contrary to what people think, camels do not spit out or throw up their stomachs. The pink sac camels spit out of their mouth is an organ called a dulla. It is an expandable sac on the lower part of the soft palate usually seen in adult male camels.

Dulla (dulaa or gulaa), a palatine diverticulum, is a big pink balloon that hangs on the side of the mouth of a camel, and that can reach up to 10 in (25 cm) in length.

Technically, the correct name of that palatine diverticulum would be “dul‘a”, derived from the Arabic verb dala‘a which means ‘to stick out one’s tongue’.

Even though both males and females have a dulla, it is more developed in adult males than in females. 

Only dromedary camels have a dulla. No other animal has it, neither the Bactrian camels nor their close relatives, the South American llamas.

To blow up its dulla, a camel will close its nostrils, and force the air from the lungs into the oral pharynx to inflate its soft palate. 

Dulla will start forming around the 3rd embryonic month in camels, and for reasons scientists can’t explain, a dulla will most of the time hang on the right part of the camel’s face. [1]

Why Do Camels Spit Out Their Stomachs?

Usually, male dromedary camels will spit out their dulla to assert dominance over males and win over the female camels. It protrudes frequently during rutting season as a form of sexual behavior of the male.

A camel will extrude its soft palate every 15-30 minutes, make loud gurgling and grunting sounds, and foam at the mouth. When there are females present, the male becomes more excited and blows his dulla more frequently. [2

The camel has the longest soft palate, with an average length of 6.3 in (16 cm), but it can sometimes reach almost 10 in (25 cm). [3

However, not everyone is a fan of dulla like female camels are.

Robyn Davidson, an Australian writer, describes it and its smell as:[4]

“Hideously repulsive pink, purple and green balloon, covered in slobber and smelling indescribably foul, that female camels perversely find attractive”  

Because camels get aggressive during mating season, the males will commonly injure their dulaas when they chase a female to mate, in fights with other males, or because of their sharp teeth

Therefore, some camel owners trim the camel’s sharp teeth –  to decrease the chance of self-inflicting injuries to the dulla, but also, to the dulaas of other camels.

Lacerated wounds, hematoma, and food can have an impaction and lead to inflammation, gangrene, and other serious health issues in camels – some might even require surgical intervention.

One study even showed that racing camels who had their dullas surgically removed had an increase in the maximum oxygen uptake at speed, which made them faster on the racing field.


Another technique that improves track performance in camels is swimming. Camel owners will let their camels swim for a few hours a day to increase their cardiovascular endurance. Read our article on breeds of camels that can swim by clicking here.


TL;DR – Do Camels Spit Out Their Stomachs?

Camels do not spit out their stomach. During a rutting season, camels will spit out an inflatable sac and let it hang on the side of their mouth. It is used to assert dominance among other males and attract females. 

It is neither a heart, stomach, intestines nor any other organ you might think a camel will throw up to stay cool.

One thing that camels spit out and throw up from their stomach is semi-digested food. When a camel is annoyed or feels it is in peril, it will bring up the contents of its stomach, mix it with saliva, and spit it on you. 

We hope you found our article informative and that we answered the question “do camels spit out their stomach” properly.


References:

[1] Al-Sobayil, Fahd A., and Ahmed F. Ahmed. “Surgery of the injured dulla in dromedary camels (Camelus dromedarius).” Iranian Journal of Veterinary Surgery 6.1-2 (2011): 17-22.

[2] Nath, K., et al. “A comparative study on sexual and maternal behavior of Bactrian and dromedary camel.” Indian Journal of Animal Reproduction 37.2 (2016): 9-13.

[3] Tanwar, Mahendra, et al. “Surgical Soft Palate Excision-A Clinical Study of 8 Camels.” Intas Polivet 17.2 (2016): 567-568.

[4] Robyn Davidson, Tracks (London, 1982), pp. 28–9

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