Bactrian Camel: Wikis


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Bactrian Camel
Bactrian Camel
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Artiodactyla
Family: Camelidae
Genus: Camelus
Species: C. bactrianus
Binomial name
Camelus bactrianus
Linnaeus, 1758

The Bactrian Camel (Camelus bactrianus) is a large even-toed ungulate native to the steppes of north eastern Asia. It is one of the two surviving species of camel. The Bactrian Camel has two humps on its back, in contrast to the single-humped Dromedary Camel.[2]

Nearly all of the estimated 1.4 million Bactrian Camels alive today are domesticated. In October 2002, the estimated 800 remaining in the wild in northwest China and Mongolia were classified as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.[1]



Head of Bactrian Camel

It is thought that the Bactrian Camel was domesticated (independently from the dromedary) sometime before 2500 BC,[3] probably in northern Iran, Northeast Afghanistan,[3] or southwestern Turkestan.[4] The dromedary is believed to have been domesticated between 4000 BCE and 2000 BCE[5] in Arabia. The wild population of Bactrian Camels was first described by Nikolai Przhevalsky in the late 19th century.

Bactrian Camels have been the focus of artwork throughout history. For example, western foreigners from the Tarim Basin and elsewhere were depicted in numerous ceramic figurines of the Chinese Tang Dynasty (618–907).

Evolutionary History

As of the 1980s, a complete range of fossils suggests that the first camels appeared in North America about 30 Ma (30 million years ago), had a relatively small body mass and were adapted to warm climates. By the early pleistocene (about 2 Ma (two million years ago)) they had already evolved into a form similar to the current bactrian camel and many individuals permanently migrated to the opposite end of the Bering Strait in an abrupt fashion, probably as a response to the advancing ice age. All remaining American populations faced extinction about 8000 years ago.[6]


There is some evidence that the Bactrian Camel can be divided up into different subspecies. In particular, it has been discovered that a population of wild Bactrian Camel lives within a part of the Gashun Gobi region of the Gobi Desert. This population is distinct from domesticated herds both in genetic makeup[7] and in behavior.[citation needed]

There are possibly as many as three regions in the genetic makeup that are distinctly different from domesticated camels and there is up to a 3% difference in the base genetic code. However, with so few wild camels, it is unclear what the natural genetic diversity within a population would have been.[citation needed]

Canadian researcher William Sommers found that these wild camels had the ability to drink saltwater slush, although it is not yet certain the camel can extract useful water from it. Domesticated camels do not attempt to drink salt water, though the reason is unknown.[citation needed]


The Bactrian Camel was identified as one of the top-10 "focal species" in 2007 by the Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered (EDGE) project, which prioritises unique and threatened species for conservation.[8] There are fewer than 1,000 thought to survive in the wild and the population is decreasing. A small captive population is kept in Mongolia and China. According to Planet Earth on the Discovery Channel, Bactrian Camels can smell a human from four miles away.


  • The Story of the Weeping Camel, a 2003 Mongolian documentary/story about a family of nomadic shepherds trying to get a white colt accepted by his mother, who rejected him after a difficult birth.
  • Planet Earth: Deserts, showing footage of wild camels from a two-month trek in the Gobi desert. Includes "diary" section, explaining the difficulties in obtaining the footage.


See also


  1. ^ a b Hare, J. (2008). Camelus ferus. In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Downloaded on 31 January 2008. Database entry includes justification for why this species is critically endangered
  2. ^ The mnemonic that allows you to remember the correct English word for each is this: "Bactrian" begins with "B", and "Dromedary" begins with "D" -- and "B" on its side has two humps, whilst "D" on its side has only one hump.
  3. ^ a b "camel." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2007. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 11 Feb. 2007 <[1]>.
  4. ^ [2]
  5. ^ Al-Swailem et al. 2007. Classification of Saudi Arabian camel (Camelus dromedarius) subtypes based on RAPD technique.Journal of Food, Agriculture & Environment Vol.5 (1) : 143-148. Online pdf
  6. ^ J.C. Emberlin: Introduction to Ecology (1983), chapter 10
  7. ^ "Wild camels 'genetically unique'". Earth News. BBC. 11:09 GMT, Wednesday, 22 July 2009. Retrieved 22 July 2009. 
  8. ^ "Protection for 'weirdest' species". BBC. 2007-01-16. Retrieved 2007-05-22. 

External links

Simple English

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