The Babyhood of Wild Beasts/Chapter 8

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A BABY Camel is such a droll looking little creature! His humps are clearly defined from the very beginning of his earthly career. His eyes are expressive and soft, and he has the patience of Job written all over his countenance. It has been my good fortune to know three baby camels. One was a Bactrian, or two-humped species, the remaining two were dromedaries or single humps. They are weak and helpless during the first few days of their lives, but gradually grow strong and run about quite actively at two weeks of age. They are sustained in good part by the air, eating practically nothing for the first two days. Then they become strong enough to take nourishment and acquire a good sized appetite in a very short time.

Young camels spend the greater part of their early life sleeping just as a human baby does. From this excessive sleeping they wax strong and large, growing as rapidly as a calf and acquiring a large, bony frame.

They are covered with thick, fluffy, brown hair, and are most interesting looking. The general disposition of little camels is much the same as our domestic calves—they are gentle and playful and fond of fun. A baby Dromedary is about 3 ft. high. The Bactrians are a little heavier framed.

One baby is the rule in Camel families. These unusual animals have played a very important part in our civilisation. They have been domesticated since Bible days, and because of their wonderful ability to travel over the great wastes of the earth, through burning heat and bitter cold, they have been called "The ship of the desert." The peculiar structure of the Camel's stomach enables him to go for many days without water.

This extraordinary power, coupled with the ability to endure climatic extremes, variety of food, famine and heavy burdens, place them in a class by themselves that even the hardy mule cannot hope to approach. A Dromedary can carry twice the load of a mule and a Bactrian can carry bii A. W. Schaacl The humps on little Camels are clearly defined at birth. Mother Camel chews her cud complacently and perchance dreanis of the future when her young son will be full grown and can carry the heaviest pack in the caravan. Such is the pride of mothers.

After the National Geographic Mayazine Baby Camel got tired trying to keep step with the caravan, so the camel driver tied him securely on his mama's strong back and gave him a free ride. much more, the loads placed upon their backs averaging from one to fifteen hundred pounds.

The pace of a loaded Camel is about two and one-half miles an hour. Their motion is peculiar and jolting and unless one is accustomed to travelling this way, it is quite disagreeable. They move both feet on the same side successively, causing one side to be thrown forward and then the other.

It is an interesting sight to see a caravan containing from one thousand to four or five thousand Camels, plodding across the great desert, laden with teas and silks. This animal has proven itself a great friend to mankind, both in civilised sections and in the great wastes.

The Bactrian Camel is better fitted for the rocky, cooler regions. It is of smaller size, heavier build, the feet are more cloven and it has longer, heavier and finer wool. Its home is Central Asia, northern Turkestan and Mongolia. This animal has a very acute sense of smell and remarkable endurance.

It can travel the Thibetan plateau with the temperature at 140° F. in the summer, or in the cold of its Arctic winter. It tramps over the plains heavy laden or hauling wagons or sledges from Peking, China, to Lake Baikal, over dizzy passes of the Hindu Kush, the rocky wastes of Afghanistan, onward to Persia.

Camels bred for the saddle are lighter and swifter than the baggage animals. These fast travelling creatures who can cover 100 miles a day are called Dromedaries, whether they have one hump or two. Their training begins at four years of age. They are taught to kneel, then to carry small loads, which are gradually increased.

The loads vary from 500 to 1,000 pounds. If too heavy, the Camel will not rise. It is very patient under its burden, yielding only to die.

The Dromedary proper is common in northeast India, Afghanistan, throughout Arabia to the Red Sea, and Somaliland on the south. The peculiar characteristics of this desert dwelling ruminant, are its long neck, and remarkable hump of fat which helps to nourish the animal. When tired, or in poor health, the hump becomes flaccid. Its feet are cloven, possessing two toes each covered with a hoof-like nail. The toes are united by one common sole, the foot resting on the pad. The desert people could not exist without the Camel.

They have been imported for draft animals to Australia, Zanzibar, Spain, and were introduced into the United States in 1857; but the Civil War interrupted this experiment. In India and upper Egypt, they are used as baggage animals and haul heavy artillery. Their food consists of leaves of trees, shrubs, and dry, hard vegetables, which they quickly crush with their powerful front teeth.

Camels seem to thrive on sunshine. When resting in the burning heat of desert sand and sun, it does not attempt to seek shelter beneath a cool tree, but basks in the fierce glare of the midday sun, apparently enjoying the maddening heat.

When overtaken by the terrible sand storms, the camel lies down and closes its eyes and nostrils, the driver seeking shelter behind its body.

The patience of this animal, "passeth all understanding." It is not very affectionate, but the human race has much to thank our friend the camel for, who has been a beast of burden to man since the dawn of civilisation.