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5 Most Famous Camels Through History

Becoming famous today isn’t that hard. 

One viral video on TikTok or Instagram and their algorithms will propel you to becoming world-know in a matter of hours. 

However, for a camel to become famous, a lot more work was required. 

Some got famous in WW2, others became a popular circus attraction, and one recently became the most expensive camel in the world. 

Here are a couple of famous camels through history and their life stories. 

famous camels

1. Topsy – The US Camel

Topsy was an 81-year old Bactrian camel that lived in the USA in the 19th century. She was an immigrant, a soldier, a builder, a circus member, a miner, a movie star, and ultimately, a zoo attraction. 

On April 27 in 1937, an unusual obituary was published in California’s Madera Tribune. 

A short article was titled: LAST AMERICAN CAMEL IS DEAD.

Topsy was the last survivor of the camel herds that once carried packs across the mountains and lava beds of Arizona and southeastern California”, it further explained. [1

But the life story of Topsy was too big to be explained in a 125-word article.

It all began around 1828, somewhere in Syria. 

Topsy was not only the last American camel, she was among the first ones.

In the 1850s,  the US Army was looking into ways of building roads towards the western parts of the country. 

The Great Desert outside of Kansas and Nebraska proved to be too tough, even for the most resilient mules and horses.

Josiah Harlan, a military commander in Afghanistan and later a consultant to the War Department, proposed the idea of using camels for such works.

After all, they were fast, calm in battle, and could carry a heavy load. 

In May 1855, an expedition was sent to the Mediterranean to purchase camels for the USA.

A total of 33 camels were bought at around $250 each; two of them were two-humped Bactrian camels. 

They reached Indianola, Texas in May 1856, and Topsy is considered to be among those first camels in the USA

Soon after their arrival, the camels were put to work; after all, that was what they were bought for.

Topsy and the other camels transported supplies and tools, helped build roads and highways.

Although they were strong, camels were not easy to handle, their smell would scare off the horses, and they would eat local’s cactus fences.

After the Civil War broke out, the resources that the Army had dedicated to the camels were required elsewhere, so the whole project was disbanded.

In 1864 the army decommissioned the camels altogether and sold each for $50. 

Topsy ended up transporting salt and ore from mines in Nevada and Arizona.

Because of its unordinary looks, Topsy later switched careers and moved to show business. 

She became a popular attraction at Ringling Brothers Circus, marched in street parades, and toured the US. 

She even appeared in some movies; because of her exotic looks, Fox Film Corporation used her in a few desert romances.

During that period of performing and traveling, Topsy ended up in a big train accident. 

Her friend was killed in the crash, but Topsy survived with injuries to her spine and both of her humps.

After that, Fox sold her to the Selig Zoo, which at some point went bankrupt, and Topsy ended up in Griffith Zoo in Los Angeles around the 1920s where she lived the last of her years.

As she aged, her injuries worsened, and she was put to sleep in April 1934, at the age of 81.

Jeremy Butler, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

2. Kuznechik – The WW2 Camel

Kuznechik (the Russian word for Grasshopper) was a Bactrian camel that followed the Red Army during World War 2 on its quest to defeat Germany. 

Camels were used in WW1. Their powerful bodies, strong legs, and endurance allowed them to carry ammunition, medications, and even wounded men across the front.

In WW2, camels also proved to be very helpful animals.

They were used to carry heavy loads, fuel, food, water, and wounded Red Army soldiers.

The 308th riffle division of the Soviet army started using a Bactrian camel from Kazahstan. 

A Bactrian camel called Kuznechik was used for transporting food, water, and cooking utensils. 

Because of its big built and tall neck, returning soldiers were able to easily locate their unit, as the animal could be seen from a great distance. 

The animal is said to have been doing its transportation duty throughout the war and followed the unit as they advanced.

The legend says that after Kuznechik reached the steps of the Reichstag in Berlin, the animal spat on it.

For its military service, Kuznechik is claimed to have been three wound stripes for suffered injuries and the Stalingrad Defence Medal. [2]

Some sources claim that the animal was killed near the Baltic Sea, in a German air attack in 1945.

3. Arnoun – The Most Expensive Camel In The World

According to various Middle Eastern sources, in 2019 a camel called Arnoun was reportedly sold for $53.3 million.

The mighty stallion was described as the most famous and most expensive camel in the world.

The Dromedary camel Arnoun was reportedly sold at an auction in Kuwait in 2019 for 200 million Saudi Riyals, which is about 53 million dollars. 

According to reports, Arnoun captured first place at the 3rd King Abdulaziz Camel Festival in Saudi Arabia, in the category of stallions. [3

4. Carla – The Famous Australian Camel

Carla was a famous Australian Dromedary camel that won the 2000-miles long Great Australian Camel Race.

In 1988, to celebrate the positive impact of camels on Australia, a wealthy millionaire called Arthur Earle, decided to organize a huge camel race. 

The race was to be 2000 miles long (3200km), and the prize money was set around $40,000.

It is said to have been the longest animal endurance race ever organized.

The race had 6 parts, similar to a car rally, where each competitor was timed on how long it took to complete a specific part.

The race lasted for three months, starting from Ayers Rock and ending at Queensland’s Gold Coast. 

The longest part of the race was from Charleville to Warwick, approximately 770 miles long (1242 km).

69 competitors started the race, but only 28 completed the event. 

Australia’s elite SASR (Special Air Service Regiment), the Australian Army, and even some Americans participated.

The winner of the grueling 2000-miles long race was a Dromedary camel called Carla, and her owner Gordon O’Connell.

Together, they would easily cross over 100km a day during the race.

He and Carla were so fast to complete the race, that people thought they were injured or lost. 

People sent searching parties and planes looking for them, while in reality, they had finished the race by 34 hours ahead of their nearest competitor.

Gordon said many times that he and Carla were such a good and trained pack that they would stop in the middle of the race at a pub for him to have a beer or two. 

The race proved to be extremely difficult for participants, and by the end of the second stage, around 80% of the competitors had been ill, lost weight, or had dysentery.

If only they knew that the animal they were riding could help them. 

Camel dung was used by many Bedouins throughout history as a cure for dysentery as it contains Bacillus subtilis that helps treat the disease.

Warning: Bedouins consumed their feces warn and fresh, straight from the source.

Gordon himself got hospitalized for severe dehydration and kidney failure. 

But that didn’t stop him and Carla from finishing the race in a record 480 hours, 34 hours ahead of the SASR unit.

After that Gordon retired and lived in Sapphire with Carla, where she lived out her last days with her human friend.

5. Emperor Kuzco – The Most Famous Camelid

A popular cartoon, The movie The Emperor’s New Groove, features one of the most famous New-world camelids, a llama.

Yes, in case you didn’t know, camels and llamas are cousins and members of the same family, the Camelidae.

The most obvious visual difference between llamas and camels is that camels have humps and llamas do not.

So in this 2000’s animated comedy, Emperor Kuzco is turned into a llama by his ex-administrator Yzma and now has to regain his throne with the help of Pacha, the gentle llama herder.

It is a movie rich with many popular references, even today. 

Make sure to check it out, in case you haven’t already.

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Final Thoughts

And there you have it! 

A list of some of the most famous camels in history and their short biographies. 

One of the most famous camels in the USA was a Bactrian camel Topsy, a soldier, builder, circus attraction, and a movie star. Kuznechik was a WW2 Soviet Bactrian that helped them during the war. Arnoun is a camel worth $53 million dollars from Saudi Arabia, and Carla was a famous camel to complete the Great Australian Camel race.


[1] Madera Tribune, Volume LXIII, Number 148, 27 April 1934

[2] Mass Culture in Soviet Russia: Tales, Poems, Songs, Movies, Plays, and Folklore, 1917-1953, Indiana University Press, 1995

[3] Ar-Rajol magazine

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