How Do Camels Protect Themselves? (From Sandstorms, Hot Sand And Predators)

To protect themselves from predators, camels will kick with their long legs, bite with their strong jaws, and spit cud. During a sandstorm, a camel will close its nostrils to protect itself from the blowing desert sand. Their legs, necks, and fur keep them safe from the hot sand.

Some animals play dead, others try to camouflage themselves so they are not seen by their enemies. 

But when it comes to camels, they have several aces in their sleeves (or better to say “in their humps”?) that help with that.

Anyhow, here are the ways camels protect themselves from different threats in their habitats.

how do camels protect themselves

How Do Camels Protect Themselves From Sandstorms?

Camel’s flexible nostrils, thick eyelashes, three eyelids, padded feet, and hairy ears allow the camels to stay well-protected during a sandstorm.

Camels have several narial muscles that allow them to shut down their nostrils completely. 

They are the only domesticated animal that can do so.

And during a sandstorm, a camel will simply protect itself by keeping the nostrils closed. 

Their snouts also contain lots of hairs that stop sand from entering their body. 

But wait, if their nostrils are closed, how do they breathe then, you might ask?

The answer is simple; camels have big and thick lips that allow them to respire, even during a sandstorm. 

Their slit lip anatomy prevents sand from entering their lungs.

Further reading: Interesting facts about camel lips

Camels also developed thick and long eyelashes, thick eyebrows, and the third set of eyelids that allow the animal to see with its eyes closed, and at the same time work like a windshield wiper to remove sand that might have gotten into the animal’s eyes.

But wait, there’s more! 

Sandstorms have wind speeds of at least 25 miles per hour (40 km/h). 

Some smaller animals would simply get blown away by that. 

Luckily for them, camels have big bodies, up to 1,521 pounds (690 kg) big ones to be precise, that keep them on the ground.

In addition, camels’ large padded feet allow them to be better anchored during those strong winds.

Finally, to stop sand from getting inside their bodies, camels developed thick fur all around their ears, even inside them.

And yes, camels do have ears, in case you were wondering.

Their small and furry ears keep the sand away and allow them to hear incoming camel predators

How Do Camels Protect Themselves From Predators?

Camels will try to spot the predator and run away from them. If that fails, camels defend themselves against enemies by kicking, biting, and spitting. 

Camels are mostly friendly creatures, but even as such they have enemies. 

Their two biggest enemies are wolves and humans.

Lions, tigers, and leopards were part of that bunch, but because their numbers decreased, camel’s and big cat’s territories rarely overlap these days.

Tanks to their keen eyesight, added height due to their long necks and extended legs, and sharp hearing, they are able to spot wolves and try to run away. 

Sometimes, they will have no other option but to fight.

Camels have very strong kicks, that can either kill or break a predator’s jaw. 

They are also known to bite and spit. 

That spit is a mixture of saliva and semi-digested and regurgitated cud (you don’t want to know how badly that smells) is meant to surprise and distract the enemy. 

Also, a camel’s sheer size can discourage some animals from preying on them.

Their other predator, humans, is not that scared, sadly. 

They have been hunting camels for centuries for their fur, skin, and meat. 

While they can try to fight off wolves and their strong teeth and sharp paws, there is nothing they can do against hunters and their guns.

There are instances when camels will be unkind to humans, most of the time rightfully so. 

So, to avoid fighting with any of their predators, camels retreated into hot deserts and uninhabitable areas where it would be hard for their predators to survive.

How Do Camels Protect Themselves From Hot Desert Sun?

To protect themselves from scorching desert heat, camels developed thick fur, long legs, and necks.

Camel fur can reach a length up to 14.9 inches (37.5cm), and a diameter of 20-120 microns (almost two times thicker than human hair). [1

Such long and thick fur prevents the hot desert sun from reaching the skin of the animal. 

If it did, a camel would sweat a lot more and would waste a lot of water trying to cool down.

Also, the color of camel fur is usually lighter in hot areas. 

This allows the camel to reflect sun rays, and prevent it from raising the animal’s body temperature.

Camel’s front legs are between 57.8 and 59.8 inches long (147-152 cm), and their back ones are between 59.8 and 68.9 inches long (152-175 cm).

These long and thin camel limbs keep the animal away from the burning sand and allow the wind to pass under its body and further cool the animal.

And to keep their heard away from that sand, camels developed elongated necks. 

The neck keeps the camel’s head at the optimal distance from the burning ground.

How Do Camels Protect Their Youngs?

Female camels are very protective of their young and can become very violent if the baby is threatened.

After the baby is born, a camel will let the calf suckle milk for up to one or two years.

Mothers and their newborns are known to hum to one another and might even blow on each other’s faces as a friendly greet. 

Because of the shared attachment between them, there have been documented cases of a camel mother mourning the loss of a calf for as long as three months.

Usually, a camel will take care of her young for three to five years, until it reaches sexual maturity.

Then, the alfa male of the herd will chase the calf away. 

That fella doesn’t like competition for his harem.

So the only thing a young camel can do is to join a group of bachelor male camels, and wait for their chance to become the new alfa and mate with the females.

Final Thoughts

This concludes our article on how camels protect themselves, whether against the strong sandstorm winds, blazing desert sand, or against their predators. 

Camels protect themselves by closing their nostrils during sandstorms, and against predators, they will try to run away, or kick, bite, and spit at the enemy if needed. Mother camels are very attached to their calves and will do everything to protect them.

We hope you found the article interesting and learned new things about camels.


References:

[1] Abdallah, H.R. & Faye, Bernard. (2012). Phenotypic classification of Saudi Arabian camel (Camelus dromedarius) by their body measurements. Emirates Journal of Food and Agriculture. 24. 272-280.

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