Camel (camehis), a genus of ruminating animals, without horns, forming a connecting link between the ruminants and pachyderms. It was one of the earliest animals domesticated by man, and is mentioned by the Hebrew writers long before the horse. It is not known to exist in a wild state, unless there is reason to believe that it is the progeny of animals, once domesticated, which have been accidentally or purposely liberated. It is now distributed over Arabia, Persia, southern Tartary, some parts of China, India, and northern and northwestern Africa. Some years ago the camel was introduced into the southern United States by the government, for the conveyance of military supplies and provisions to the garrisons in and beyond the great desert and the extensive plains now traversed by the Pacific railroad; an attempt was also made to acclimatize it in Texas; but any satisfactory results which might have been expected from such experiments were frustrated by the civil war. - Zoologically the camel is divided into two species: the Bactrian camel (C. Bactrianus), with two humps, and the Arabian or one-humped camel (G. Arabicus), sometimes but, improperly called the dromedary.
The true dromedary is merely a variety of the Arabian camel, to which it bears the same relation that the race horse does to the common horse.
The dental formula is: incisors, (1-1)/(3-3); molars, (6-6)/(6-6), the anterior ones being conical, separated from the rest, and sometimes regarded as canines. The upper lip is hairy, naked in front, and elongated; neck and legs long; toes two, callous beneath, the hoofs covering only the upper surfaces, the soles not being divided. The upper incisors are conical, compressed, somewhat curved, resembling canines, and are used for tearing up the hard and thorny plants of the desert on which the animal usually feeds. It is a large and ungainly creature, with a hump or humps on the back and callosities on the knees; the hind legs seem disproportionately long, and the croup weak; and it is probably the most awkward-looking of the mammals. Yet its apparent deformities make it one of the most useful of animals, and one without which the desert in semi-barbarous communities would be impassable. Its clumsy-looking and wide-spreading feet prevent it from sinking into the sand, and give its gait an elasticity and silence peculiar to itself; its long pendulous upper lip is its organ of prehension, and its nostrils can be closed at will against the wind-driven sand.
The hump upon its back is a storehouse of food, which is slowly reabsorbed during its long inarches, and secures it against death from the unavoidable privations of the desert. The seven rough callosities on the flexures of the limbs and chest are the points on which it rests when it kneels to receive its burden. The first stomach or paunch has a division, which may be closed by muscular action, whose walls are provided with a system of large cells, capable of considerable distention, which the animal can fill with water, to the amount of several quarts, and thus carry with itself a supply for its own wants for about a week, a supply which it occasionally yields with its life to save that of its master. The camel supplies the Arab with milk, and occasionally with its flesh, which is said to resemble beef, for food; the hair serves to make clothing, the skin for leather, and the dung for fuel. The chief value of the camel, however, is as a beast of burden; its strength, power of endurance, ability to subsist on the coarsest food, to go without water, and to travel over the yielding sand, has justly earned for it the title of "ship of the desert." The ordinary load for a camel is about 600 lbs., though for short journeys it can carry 1,000 lbs.; the speed of the camel is seldom more than 3 miles an hour, and the swiftest dromedaries do not exceed 10, but the pace can be kept up for 20 hours without rest; a lightly loaded camel will take with the same foot about 38 strides a minute, each one averaging 7 feet.
Riding on a swift camel is the most terrible way of travelling to the uninitiated, as the peculiar swinging and jerking gait jolts one almost to a jelly. Though naturally gentle and obedient, from the ill treatment of their drivers they are very often unruly and even savage, biting severely. The height of the Arabian camel at the shoulder is between 6 and 7 feet, and the color of the rather coarse hair is of various shades of brown. The dromedary is generally used for riding, and the ordinary camel as a beast of burden. The Bactrian camel has two humps, and is a little larger than the Arabian; it has less endurance than the latter, and is loaded with more difficulty, but is used with great advantage throughout central Asia, Thibet, and China, as a beast of burden and draught; in Persia, a very serviceable form of light artillery is mounted on these animals. A fossil camel, larger than any existing species, has been discovered in the tertiary deposits of the Sivalik hills of Hindostan. For interesting anecdotes of this animal, the reader is referred to Broderip's " Leaves from the Note Book of a Naturalist." - Major Wayne's report on the use of the camel in the United States contains much valuable information regarding this animal.
He says: "Formed rather for a level than a broken country, the camel meets without inconvenience a fair amount of mountain and valley, and is not distressed in ascending or descending moderate slopes, although they be long. The foot of the camel, clothed with a tough skin, enables it to travel with facility over sand, gravel, or stones. It will also stand a tolerable degree of volcanic debris or rocky soil, and aided by art - provided with a shoe of hide, iron-shod at the bottom, and attached round the fetlock joint - it traverses these impediments without difficulty, and also ice and snow. In wet, clayey, and muddy soils the camel moves with embarrassment, and is apt to slip and slide in it, without the ability to gather itself quickly." Its capacity to carry weight on continuous journeys he estimates, for the strongest camels, at from 450 to 600 lbs., for the common kinds from 300 to 450 lbs.; and these they will carry from 18 to 30 m. a day, according to the character of the country, whether broken or level, over Which they travel, moving for the usual daily travelling time of from 8 to 10 hours. With lighter loads they will travel a little faster.
The saddle dromedary, or swift riding camel, he thinks, will carry from 150 to 300 lbs. continually, travelling from 8 to 10 hours, about 50 m. a day. On emergency, they will make from 70 to 90 m. a day, but only for a day or two, over a level country. The true land of the camel is not, as many persons suppose, the tropics, or their confines, but rather the northern regions of the temperate zone. They thrive better, and are a larger and stronger animal, in central Asia than in Africa or Arabia, and are as impatient of extreme heat as of intense cold.
Cells of the Camel's Stomach.
Foot of Camel.
Camel, a machine lor partially lifting ships so as to float them in shoal water, as over bars. It was invented and first applied by the Dutch about the year 1688, in order to carry their ships over the sands of the Zuyder Zee. The appliance used by them consisted of two similar-shaped vessels about 127 ft. long, 22 ft. wide at one end, and 13 at the other. These being brought one on each side of the ship, and secured to it by ropes passing under the keel from one to the other, water was let into each till it sank nearly down to the surface, the ropes being kept tight by windlasses or capstans on the decks of the camels. The water being then pumped out, the camels as they rose lifted the vessel with them. For large ships heavy timbers were run out of the port holes which took the strain as the camels rose under them. By this means ships of war carrying 100 guns were readily made to pass the sand banks of the Zuyder Zee. Similar machines are used for carrying vessels over the bar of New Bedford harbor, and at Nantucket; and they are also used for raising sunken vessels.
Floating docks are constructed on the same principle; and vessels are often lightened by the use of empty casks floated on each side, and drawn down by ropes under the keel.