Camels foam at the mouth for three reasons: during a mating season, when a camel is in a rut, it will foam to attract females, because it has rabies, or during a camel race.
Foaming and frothing at the camel’s mouth usually occur when excess saliva in the mouth is mixed with air, creating foam.
Let’s explain in detail all the reasons for that.
Why Do Camels Foam At The Mouth?
1. They Are In Mating Season
When a male camel is in heat, one of the sexual behaviors it will display to attract females is to foam at the mouth. It can be also used as a tactic to drive away rivals from their harem.
Camels are greatly adapted to saving water and surviving in arid habitats and harsh climates.
They can close their nostrils to reduce water loss and have thick fur to prevent water loss through sweating – camels are perfectly aware of how important it is to conserve water.
So to hit on the ladies, males will do the opposite and show that they don’t care about that water.
They will frequently urinate, inflate a tongue-like sac and let it hang from their mouth (the organ called “dulla”), and will produce extra saliva and foam at the mouth.
Perhaps a simple dinner and flowers would have been a better idea. Oh well.
Also, during intercourse, a male camel can be seen gurgling and frothing at the mouth.
Camels are seasonal breeders and get in heat during the winter months.
Camel keepers say that the animal becomes insufferable then and that you don’t want to get in the way of an aroused camel.
Here’s how that foaming looks like.
Further reading: Interesting facts about camel’s mouth
2. They Have Rabies
Camels might foam at the mouth because they have a disease called rabies. Rabies or Lyssavirus is an infectious disease transferred via saliva that affects the central nervous system in mammals.
Rabies is a very dangerous disease that can be transferred to camels, and even to humans.
Usually, a camel will get infected by getting bitten by a wild dog or a fox.
Rabies-infected camels will be in most cases very aggressive and attack for no apparent reason.
They will be very restless, swing their head around, and foam at the mouth.
In some cases, it will look like they are drooling because they can’t swallow their saliva.
Soon after, the signs that follow are paralysis of limbs, laying down, and ultimately death.
Vaccines are available, such as modified-live virus, recombinant, and inactivated types of vaccines, that can be used on camels. Usually, they are administered every 3 years.
Although all domestic animals are susceptible to rabies, infection of camels was not noted on too many occasions.
For humans, however, it is still a major cause of death.
It is estimated that around 60 000 people a year die from this disease. A concept called ‘One health’ was proposed by World Health Organization (WHO) to successfully eliminate human rabies cases worldwide by 2030.
3. They Are Racing
A camel might also foam when galloping during a camel race. That pressure of high-speed running might create frothing at the mouth.
Camel racing is a multimillion industry in the Middle East.
In 2018, the King Abdulaziz Camel Festival had combined prize money of $57 million for obedience, beauty, and racing of camels.
And there you have it!
Three main reasons why camels foam at the mouth are: because they are in a rut and want to attract females, because they have rabies, or because they are racing for a prize.
Usually, when in heat, males will throw out their inflatable soft palate tissue, dulla, as a courtship display for females and to assert dominance over other males.
Another cause for frothing in camels could be rabies, although not too many cases have been noted of that occurrence.
We hope you found our article helpful and informative.
Further reading: Are Camels Mean?
Rabies Outbreaks and Vaccination in Domestic Camels and Cattle in Northwest China