camels and camel milks

camels and camel milks

camels and camel milks

Before presenting data on milk production, both quantity and quality, one must consider in detail all the relevant information about the camel in order to ascertain the full value that this animal can play in human nutrition.

Camels, or the family of camels, the Camelidae, are found throughout the world and all camels will be mentioned when possible; however, this report deals mainly with the one-humped dromedary, which is found in the desert and semi-desert areas.

According to  

dr. r. yagil

fao consultant

Milk is the main food obtained from a herd of camels, (Dahl, 1979). The one-humped camel was domesticated about 3000 B.C.E. in southern Arabia (Bullet, 1975), mainly for its meat and milk (Epstein, 1971). The camels were, and still are, valued as riding, baggade and work animals, as well as providers of hair and hides. In arid zones the camel is a better provider of food than the cow, which is severely affected by the heat, scarcity of water and feed (Sweet, 1965)

Camels originated in North America when the land masses were still joined (Leuner, 1963). These animals were no larger than hares. Here they remained from the upper Eocene throughout the Tertiary period, into the Pleistocene epoch, a period of 40 million years. Continued evolution produced the very large American camels. From North America, meanwhile, the animals migrated to other parts of the world, finally disappearing from their original area. The various types and breeds in the camel family are probably a result of evolutionary adaptation to the various environments to which the animals were exposed.

Some of the camels migrated to the deserts and semi-deserts of northern Africa and the Middle East. Remains of camels have been found in old Palestine, dating to 1800 B.C.E. Field (1979) considered that further migration of camels in Africa was prevented by their susceptibility to tsetseborne trypanosomiasis. However, the camel has been incriminated as the probable host which became infected with Trypanosoma brucei in the northern tsetse areas and spread the infection which evolved to mechanically-transmitted T. evansi, throughout northern Africa into Asia. These camels have one-hump and long spindly legs.

The two-humped camel, the Bactrian, was domesticated on the border of Iran and Turkmenistan and spread to an area bordered by the Crimea, southern Siberia, Mongolia and China. These animals are stockier than the dromedary and covered by a thicker wool.

The new-world Camelidae are smaller versions of the camels and live in the heights of the mountains in South America.

All the members of the camel family are found in the order of the Artiodactyla (even-toed ungulates); suborder: Tylopoda (pad-footed); family: Camelidae. The old-world genus is the Camelus, having the two species of the Bactrianus (two-humped) and Dromedarius (one-humped). The new-world genus of the Lama has three species, while the genus of Vicugna has only one species.

Although they chew cud, camels differ from true ruminants in a few anatomical features (Cloudley-Thompson, 1969). Adult camels have two incisor teeth in their upper jaws; they lack an omasum, the third stomach division of the ruminants, which is considered the water reabsorbing portion of the stomach; they have no gallbladder; and the hooves have been reduced to claw-like toes, projecting beyond the pads. In India, camel meat is not eaten by the Hindus (Simoons, 1961), nor by the Christian Copts of Egypt, Zoroastrians of Iran, Mandaeans of Iraq and Iran, Nosaioris of Syria, Ethiopians of Christian Faith nor in Israel the camel is considered as being unsuitable as a source of meat.

Within the arid regions the camel-breeding tribes have maintained a dominant position over other societies by virtue of their ability to exploit the often poor grazing ranges (Sweet, 1965). Camel-owning tribes are continually on the move, looking for grazing and water for their animals (Elamin, 1979). They can wander over 1 000 km in a season. The distance covered depends on the availability of water and feed. With rapidly expanding urbanization, these wanderings are causing clashes between cultures and destroying the grazing areas of the camels.

Because of its importance as a means of survival for the desert dwellers, the camel often plays an important role in the social and cultural heritage of the tribes. For instance, in various cultures (Hartley, 1979) ownership of a camel begins when a male child is born. He is presented with a femalecalf. The child's umbilical cord is placed in a sac and tied around the neck of the camel. In other societies the camel is used for attracting wives or paying off “criminal” offences (Dickson, 1951).

Camels have been introduced by man into various parts of the world, mainly as baggage animals for the arid zones of the country. This happened in Australia, where the camels escaped into the wild and are now considered vermin (McKnight, 1969). In Italy, Spain, South Africa and Texas in the USA camels were also introduced as pack animals, but they soon disappeared. Camels were introduced into the Canary Islands from Morocco in 1402 (Buillet, 1975), where they are still in use in agriculture and as beasts of burden.

In Sudan (El-Amin, 1979) there is at present one of the largest populations of one-humped camels in the world. They are found mainly in the arid and semi-arid areas of the country, where the average rainfall is less than 350 mm per year.

In the Horn of Africa (Hartley, 1979) the camel is found in the arid and semi-arid rangelands in Ethiopia, Djibuti, Somalia and Kenya. In these areas water supplies range from abundant in the riverine areas, to extreme aridity. In these areas the inhabitants are mainly pastoral and the camels roam according to the range conditions. In the dry season the camels are watered once every 10–20 days, compared with every 3–8 days for sheep and goats and every 2–3 days for cattle. The movement of the camels away from the living centres is divided primarily into far-moving dry herds and the closer-by milch animals.

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