Thursday, November 2, 2017

Bactrian Camel

I have fallen in love with Bactrian (two hump) camels. We have now ridden and spent time with both Dromedary camels and Bactrian camels and the Bactrian camels are the best. First, they are larger. Male Bactrians range from 5.9 to 7.5 feet at the shoulder and weigh from 660 to 2,200 pounds, while male Dromedaries range from 5.9 feet to 6.6 feet at the shoulder and weigh from 880 to 1,320 pounds. Second, Bactrians are hairier and more distinctive looking than Dromedaries. Bactrians can produce 11 to 26 pounds of wool a year, while  Dromedaries can only produce 2.2 pounds of wool a year. The thick, shaggy head, neck and hump hair of the un-shaven Bactrian is awesome.
Look at the huge humps and the beautiful furry neck on this Bactrian camel in the Flaming Mountains outside Turpan. 
Third, the Bactrian is better able to handle the variability of cold (as low as -40 degrees), high altitude  (rocky mountain massifs) and heat (large sand dunes and 104 degrees) than the Dromedary which is primarily a hot weather animal. Fourth, the Bactrian has a much better ride. The "U" shaped spot between the two humps is a natural saddle. 
The "three kings" on Bactrian camels, nestled in the natural saddles between the humps. In the Flaming Mountains. 
It is easier to get on, more comfortable to ride and less awkward while the camel is getting up or going down than the upside down "U" shaped Dromedary hump. Finally, the Dromedary seems to be nastier than the Bactrian, more prone to spit and bite. 

There are about 2 million Bactrian camels and the vast majority of them are domesticated. They are primarily found in Central Asia where we just visited.
Bactrian camel range (from Wikipedia)
However, there are about 1,400 wild Bactrian camels found in the Gobi Desert of Mongolia and the Taklamakan Desert of Xianjiang, China which are smaller than the domesticated Bactrians and have a different DNA. The Dromedary is entirely domesticated and primarily found in northern Africa and the Middle East and there are about 500,000 feral Dromedaries (domesticated gone wild) in Australia which was not part of their natural range. 
Dromedary camel range (from Wikipedia)
There are an estimated 13 million Dromedaries in Africa, 670,000 in the Middle East, 800,000 in Pakistan and under 1 million in India. Bactrians and Dromedaries co-exist in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and central and southwestern Asia. 

We visited Dunhuang, located in the Gobi Desert region of Gansu Province, China. As we flew into Dunhuang from Xian I was mesmerized by the amazing Gobi Desert from the air, from dry high mountains to extensive sands.
Dry mountains with no vegetation.
The steppes below the mountains.
Desert sands. 
In an area right outside of town known as Mingsha Shan or Singing Sand Mountains, 
A beautiful sand dune with reeds on the plane below it.
we were able to take a camel ride for about an hour on a Bactrian camel with about 500 of our favorite friends. Camels were lined up in groups of five, each group led by a walking guide, which then followed a route out into the sand and up into the dunes. 
Camels waiting for riders in Dunhuang.
A long line of camels and riders stretches out into the dunes. 
Riders coming the opposite direction. 
Going and coming.
A thick grouping of camels.
Three isolated camels and riders.
Camel tracks, human backs and camel shadows.
The route stretched a very long distance with camels and riders occupying much of that space. We were told that there are about 10,000 camels in Dunhuang and seeing so many of them out there at the same time made imagining a caravan of camels much easier to do. 

In Turpan, Xianjiang Autonomous Region, in the Flaming Mountains, on the edge of the Taklamakan Desert, we encountered more Bactrian camel rides, but did not participate. We did get pictures. I liked these camels because they had not been as heavily shaved and many of them had wonderfully large humps.

Two camels at the bottom of a large dune in the Flaming Mountains.  
Judy on her camel.
Getting ready to dismount. 

1 comment:

  1. Amen and amen. I much nicer ride on a more unique-looking animal than the Bactrian camel. I can imagine riding all day on one of these, but NOT on a Bactrian. This was a very fun day.