Why Do Camels Have Long Legs? (3 Big Reasons)

The short answer is: camels have long legs because it keeps them at a safe distance from hot sand, it helps them walk more and save energy, and it helps them reach vegetation that is high on trees.

Let’s look further into that.

why do camels have long legs

Main Reasons Why Camels Have Long Legs

1. It Keeps Them At Safe Distance From Hot Sand

Camels have long legs because it allows them to keep their bodies and internal organs as far as possible from the burning desert sand.

The temperature of desert sand and rock is about 30 to 40 degrees F (16 to 22 degrees C) higher than the air temperature. 

For instance, when the air temperature is 110 degrees F (43 degrees C), the sand temperature can get around 140 degrees F (60 degrees C). [1]

If camels were to stay close to that sand, they would spend huge amounts of water to regulate their body temperature and cool themselves down. 

And wasting water is not something camels are famous for.

In fact, it’s quite opposite. 

They can go up 10 days without drinking water; some claim up to 15.

And if it weren’t for their lengthy legs, one thing is for sure: that number would have been a lot smaller.

Also, their long limbs allow winds to flow under the body and cool the animal even further.

2. They Save Energy While Walking

A camel’s long legs allow it to cover larger distances in search of the next meal with little effort and energy expenditure. This is all thanks to the way camels walk.

What makes a camel so different compared to other animals is its pacing gait. 

In a pacing gait, a camel will walk by moving both the front and back leg of the same side of the body. 

So first the front left leg and back left leg go forward at the same time, and then the front right leg and back right leg go forward at the same time.

This way of camel walking allows it to have a faster, longer stride, and conserve energy when walking. 

Less energy spent means more water saved.

3. They Can Reach Food Easily And Spot Predators

Having long legs in combination with long necks, allow camels to reach plants that are high in the air. Also, greater height allows the camel to spot approaching predators.

Camels are herbivores that can both graze on plants on the ground and browse vegetation high on trees.

And according to herders, camels actually prefer to eat leaves and tree branches. 

Camel’s long and curved necks that are between 29.5 and 59.8 inches long (75-152cm) and their long and thin legs, give the animal added height and allow it to reach food that is up to 10 ft (3 m) above the ground.

If they had the same neck length, but shorter legs, camels would be a lot more unstable and would spend lots of energy to bend their head.

Again, more bending means more energy spent and more water wasted.

Did you know: Around 20 million years ago, a camel called Aepycamelus, had almost two times longer neck than today’s camel. It had a neck 5 to 6 feet long (2 m).

Another reason why long legs come in handy with their long necks is that it allows them to have a better view of the terrain in front of them. 

Keeping their heads high above the ground makes it easier for a camel to spot an approaching carnivorous predator and to try to run away.

It also allows them to better spot food, water, and other camels in the distance.

How Long Are Camel Legs?

Bactrian camels have between 57.8 and 59.8 inches long front legs (147-152 cm), and 59.8 and 68.9 inches long back legs (152-175 cm). Dromedary camels have between 54.3 and 59.4 inches long front legs (138-151cm) and between 57 and 63.7 inches long hind legs (145-162 cm).

Camel leg length depends on camel species, sex, and age. 

A study on camels in India showed that male Bactrian camels have shorter legs than females.[2

Males had around 58 inches long front legs (147.3cm), while females had around 60 inches long ones (152.4 cm). 

The back legs of males were about 60 inches long (152.4 cm), compared to 69 inches of females (175.3 cm). 

It is worth noting that despite having shorter legs, the shoulder height of males was 97.8 inches (248.6 cm), compared to 83.6 inches of females (212.5 cm).

When it comes to Dromedary camels, a study on three Indian Dromedary camel breeds (Bikaneri, Jaisalmeri, and Kachchhi) concluded that males have longer limbs than females.[3]

Male Dromedary camels had around 59 inches long forelimbs (150cm), and 63.3 inches long hind limbs (161cm).

Female Dromedary camels had around 55 inches long forelimbs (140cm), and around 58.6 inches long hind limbs (149cm).

Camel SpeciesFront Leg LengthBack Leg Length
Male Dromedary Camel59 inches63.3 inches
Female Dromedary Camel55 inches58.6 inches
Male Bactrian Camel58 inches60 inches
Female Bactrian Camel60 inches69 inches
The difference in limb length in different sex and camel species

Compared to a horse, whose average leg length is between 51 and 63 inches (130-160 cm) depending on the breed, a camel has slightly longer limbs.

Final Thoughts

This concludes our article on why camels have long legs. 

Camels have long legs because they allow them to reach higher vegetation, stay further away from hot desert sand, save energy while walking, and spot food and predators in distance.

Their long, thin, and strong legs are between 54 and 69 inches long, depending on camel species, sex, and the leg being measured.

We hope you found the article interesting, that you learned more fun stuff about camels, and that we managed to answer the question “why do camels have long legs” properly.

Interested in learning more about camel legs? Read our article on how many legs camels have.


References:

[1] Desert Survival, www.aircav.com

[2] Gazi, Mohsin A., Showkat ul Nabi, and Shakeel Ahmed. “Morphometric studies on adult double humped camel of Ladakh, India.” Emirates Journal of Food and Agriculture (2013): 544-548.

[3] Khanna, N. D., A. K. Rai, and S. N. Tandon. “Camel breeds of India.” Journal of Camel Science 1 (2004): 8-15.

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