Bactrian camel

Most are domesticated; a few herds in the Gobi desert are though to be wild


Bactrian camel


Most are domesticated; a few herds in the Gobi desert are though to be wild

Population 950
46% decrease in population since 1985

A magnificent creature that traces its common name to the ancient historical region of Bactria—now part of modern-day Afghanistan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan—stands as a testament to the resilience and adaptability of life in Earth’s most extreme environments. As the largest living camel species, the Bactrian camel is distinguished not only by its impressive size but also by the characteristic two humps on its back, a feature that sets it apart from its one-humped cousin, the dromedary camel.

Contrary to popular belief, the humps of the Bactrian camel store fat, not water, serving as a vital reserve of energy that can be metabolized when food is scarce. This adaptation is crucial for survival in their native habitats, which encompass some of the most arid and inhospitable terrains on the planet, including the cold deserts of Central Asia. The Bactrian camel’s woolly coat, which can range in color from sandy beige to dark brown, is another remarkable adaptation. This dense, shaggy coat provides insulation against the extreme temperature fluctuations of their environment—temperatures that can soar to 37.8°C (100°F) in the summer and plummet to -28.9°C (-20°F) in the winter. As the seasons change, the camels shed their winter coats to avoid overheating, showcasing their remarkable ability to adapt to their surroundings.

The physical adaptations of the Bactrian camel extend beyond their humps and coat. Their sealable nostrils, bushy eyebrows, and long eyelashes offer critical protection from the pervasive dust and sand of desert sandstorms. These features not only safeguard the camels’ eyes and respiratory system from fine particulate matter but also symbolize the evolutionary ingenuity that has allowed these animals to thrive in such challenging conditions.

Historically, the Bactrian camel played a pivotal role in the development of trade routes across Asia, most notably the Silk Road. Their ability to carry heavy loads over long distances without water made them indispensable to the caravans that traversed these ancient trade routes, fostering cultural and economic exchange between the East and West.


Population est.
Official estimate
Extinct 2004

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  •  Eating snow regularly to fulfill their water needs and rarely sweat to conserve water.

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Terrestrial / Aquatic

Altricial / Precocial

Polygamous / Monogamous

Dimorphic (size) / Monomorphic

Active: Diurnal / Nocturnal

Social behavior: Solitary / Pack / Herd

Diet: Carnivore / Herbivore / Omnivore / Piscivorous / Insectivore

Migratory: Yes / No

Domesticated: Yes / No

Dangerous: Yes / No