All the amazing camels that we’ve ever had, and now have, would be lying dead on the desert floor if we did not have them with us. This, we know for a fact.
Given our wild camel ‘situation’ in Australia we refuse to ‘breed camels’ because that just seems unfair…
Australia has the largest wild camel population in the world due to early importations to help Australia ‘open up’ it’s remote outback regions. But, what happened between the times where the camels were useful to the Australian government and now, classed as a pest and culled by the thousands?
In this episode we dive into the history of camels in Australia and how they came to being a ‘pest’ and therefore killed (culled) by the thousands – which seems absurd given that foreign countries are desperate to import our, healthy and disease free, Australian camels. We discuss why this ISN’T happening.
We also get a bit political on this matter (how can you not?!) and discuss possible solutions, beyond mass culling, for Australia’s wild camels.
We all want to do the right thing by our animals, in this case our camels, but sometimes the lack of understanding of a camel’s psychology – their way of thinking – can do more harm than good.
The truth is that to gain a good understanding of a camel’s psychology takes years of being around them and there are no real solid studies (yet) to conclude a camel’s way of thinking to help camel owners understand them better, this means a lot of trial and error takes place from camel husbandry, camel training and camel handling.
This post is not about judging others who may or may not give their camels toys to ‘play’ with. This is about education about how a camel thinks, to help any potential problems or dangers manifest. You don’t have to Google far to hear of‘pet camels killing their owners’. It’s so sad, but true. The sadder part is that it’s human error because of lack of information and education – it’s our main concern and frustration for us as camel owners, trainers, handlers and lovers.
It’s our duty as camel advocates and mentors to other camel owners, to call out the warning signs and dangers of camels having, using and ‘playing’ with toys.
We’ll break it down by the most common toys used and explain how a camel thinks towards these situations.
Large Balls (a.k.a. Horse/Jolly Balls)
If a large ball was to enter a camel’spaddock there’s a couple of things that might happen.
1. They’ll never go near it as it’s too scary
2. They will go near it and start pushing it around, seeming like they are ‘playing’ with it and if possible get it into a corner of some sort so the ball will stop, and they can try “sit” on it. And if it doesn’t stop they will continually try to ‘play’ with it so it will stop – so they can sit on it.
Sounds funny right!? The scary part is that it’s not funny once you know what the camel is really thinking.
So what IS the camel thinking when playing with this type of camel toy? Simple answer is, they want to destroy and kill. The ball is foreign, scary & un-natural – they wouldn’t find one of these out in their natural environment.
What camels don’t know about, they fear about.
This ball is like a predator to the camel. It’s threat that needs to be gone! We’ve also seen this with round hay bales, a camel will “sit” on it. Simply put, if a camel is sitting on anything other than the ground, it’s scared of it (exclusions for in-tact bull camels, that’s a whole other topic). The reason a camel will keep pushing a ball around is that it’s trying to intimidate the ball so it will stop and the camel can crush it (this is what they’d do to a predator in the wild). Not so funny now. What if the ball was blue and a young child wearing blue come into the camel’s paddock. You can see the danger signs! Big jolly or horse balls are simply a frustration to camels and they do not support any of a camel’s (positive) natural instincts , except to kill things unknown to them. What camel owner wants to nurture that instinct? Not us! Treat Toys and Balls
These reward-based balls or shapes are supposed to keep an animal entertained within their domestic environments. When you think about the psychology of a treat balls for a cat, dog or even a horse this can make sense. Cats and dogs are hunters and horses use their hooves & muzzle to reveal herbs and grasses in the natural environment. For a camel, it’s just frustrating. Camels are not grazers by nature they are forages which means they mostly prefer to search up high for food like trees and shrubs, and sometimes eat herbs and the like from the ground. Camels will certainly adjust to a grazing environment, but their natural instincts are to forage for food. So a treat ball doesn’t make sense for a camel. It will only frustrate a camel, which isn’t very mentally stimulating for them.
What else can you offer?
Offer tree and shrub branches (that are safe for them to eat) and hang them above their head level so they have to reach for it. We wrote more about this topic with practical suggestions – 3 Ways To Nurture a Camels Natural Instincts.
(Although not a toy) Salt Blocks can keep them ‘entertained’, but comes with warnings.
Have you ever seen a camel trying to eat a slat block? They will spend quite a while “playing” with the block trying to bite off chunks of salt. They will toss and turn the block trying to get their daily requirements of salt. There’re doing this because camels need a lot of salt in their diet, and can eat up to 1kg per day (sometimes more). So you can imagine how frustrating it is for a camel to try and eat a salt block just to get their daily requirements.
There are two factors here that can frustrate a camel when eating a salt block
1. They don’t have long enough tongues to lick it – camels have short tongues!
2. Since the tongue doesn’t work they will use their teeth which will result in pre-mature loss of teeth from constant grinding.
So,what to do instead?
Use 100% pure loose salt (can get it as pool salt). Make sure it’s pure salt, no additives added. Leave a bucket (either with heavy bottom or tied to a fence post) with loose salt in it so the camel will help itself at free will. Depending on their need, ssome camels may eat more than others, that’s why it’simportant that salt isn’t hand feed as each camel’s ratio varies depending on what they are eating, drinking and their general well-being.
So there we have it!
Tell us what your biggest take away from this topic was and if there is anything that you’d like to implement – let us know in the comments below.
If you’re a camel owner or care for camels in one way or another this blog post is for you!
The truth is that we humans take an animal from its wild and natural habitat, so we can admire, work with, get to know and understand them more. For thousands of years humans have been taming and domesticating wild animals for company or other practical purposes. The camel is no different.
The problem of taking a camel (or any animal) from ‘wild’ to domesticated (whether it be first generation or not) are there is always a slight bit of their ‘wild’, natural behaviour and traits that goes away. It’s always human error and for us, there is this deep underlying feeling that even though we have now domesticated camels (and they enjoy our company) we feel a slight bit of guilt. On our farm, we try our best to keep the camel’s natural instincts intact for the sake of understanding the camel at its phycology, as well, as “preserving” their natural abilities, instincts and traits. Not only does this make for easier training and handling, but, we believe that it’s our duty as the ‘caretakers’ that we allow the camel to be well, be a camel!
If you’re like us, you love the camel for being a camel, so you’d want to nurture their natural instincts and maintain their behaviours that made you fall in love with them in the first place!
Lets look at some ways to keep the camel’s natural instincts and behaviours in tact -for easier training, handling and bonding.
3 Ways To Nurture a Camel’s Natural Instincts
1. They need friends
You’ve heard it before, either from us or other sources, that it’s in the best interest of the camel that they are housed/paddocked in pairs.
A camel, by nature, is a copycat. They learn from their elders – regardless of the species – especially baby camels who is under two years old. It may seem ‘cute’ that a camel is copying behaviours of a horse, cow, goat, etc., but if we’re the devil’s advocate it’snot cute becausethe camel’s natural instincts and behavioural characteristics are slowly diminishing, and new ones are being formed (remember, they are copy cats).
We’ve had camels come to us from a young age and were housed with other animal species. The major difference we notice are the confusion on ‘who they really are’ which on a mental plain manifests as behavioural issues, aggressiveness and much harder to train and handle. We have a rule on our farm that if we get a camel that has not been housed with another camel, we turn them out amongst our herd of camels for 3-6 months (depending on the camel). We don’t work with or handle them for that duration of time, but we do observe and see major progress in their ‘learning to be a camel again’ as they copy the behaviours of the other camels and learn their place within the herd.
Bottom line, camels are to be brought and housed in pairs.This is not a marketing strategy, it comes down to the well-beingof the camel, it’s natural instincts (given they are a herd animal) and their overall well-being, particularly mental welfare in this case.
If you have been saving madly for a camel and the ‘right one’ comes along, but there’s no extra cash for a second camel, make it your new camel’s prerogative to get another camel friend ASAP.
2. “Enrichment” Activities for Camels
Have you heard about Enrichment Activities for animals? It’s usually when an animal is given a ‘hard task’ to complete usually in the shape of a man-made “toy” of sorts. The animal is supposed to “play” with it until a reward is gained. This track of thinking is right for some animals, but camels are different.
What we see, time and time again, is that the activities that are given to camels do not support their natural instincts and behaviours. It’s no one’s fault, it’s just that a camel’s physiology can take a while to understand and often trial and error will take place. The only way of knowing if trial and error has been detrimental, is when this results in difficult to manage behaviours. Obviously, the goal here is the enrich the camel’s natural instincts and behaviours as they would in the wild so…
Here’s some examples of enrichment exercises for camels – side note here, camels in a large herd or well replicated domestic environments generally don’t need a lot (if any) of these exercises.
· Handpick tress and shrubs that your camels like to eat and hang them higher than the top of their head, so they mustreach to get to the branches. This supports their natural wild instincts to forage and reach for their food and encourages them to think of ingenuities ways to get their food. This is what they would do in the wild. And, if your camel has other camels with them they will work together as a team to get to this yummy food – It’s amazing to watch!
· Another alternative is to take your camel for a walk to tress and shrubs that they would like to pick, explore and forage. In the wild, studies have shown from tracking wild Australian camels, that a camel can and will walk up to 50km/day just foraging for food and water! So, walking and eating at the same time is 100% in a camel’s nature. Even in our herd, on our farm, we notice that every day the camels will walk the entire property (as they are free range) doing their natural thing – foraging for food.
· What not to do, is give your camels ‘hard task’ activates such as balls to “play with” – these are very dangerous. ‘Treat balls’ that have kibble or other food rewards drop out of them when they turned the right way. Yes, the camel will keep going and going until they get the food reward, but it’s frustrating for them and does not support any of their natural instincts or behaviours, because they are foragers not hunters. Also, it doesn’t support their mental wellbeing and it’s not every mentally stimulating for them.
To give you an idea of an ordinary day of a camel’s behaviours, here’s what it looks like:
They wake up at sunrise, poop, get up, have a little stretch, pee, soak up the sun for a while, start making way to food, slowly start eating, after a few hours – sit down, chew cud, get up, eat some more, maybe push around buddies a bit – just to let them know whose boss, sit down, chew cud, pee, poop some more, and repeat!
3. Use Training & Handling that the camel understands
A camel that is being trained for the first time will understand what is being ask of them quite quickly, because they are very intelligent creatures. Now training can go two ways: the first way is being the coercive, dominating and forceful approach. The second way is building trust, gentle, persuasive training with an “elevation” approach.
If you’re not getting quick results with your camel, then, it’s likely that you’re using language they don’t understand.
Training and handling camels is all about working WITH the camel,not having the camel work FOR you. Why? Because in herds of camels (in the wild and domestic) they work together, so this method makes sense to a camel. Now, every now and then, there is always a ‘bully’ and another camel is FORCED to do something and surely, they will, because camels always live on the verge of fear, it’s in their nature. So you can see that the two camel training and handling methods will work, but one day in a herd, when they are much older and more confident, that bullied camel will fight back, they don’t care about the consequences! That’s why you need to be careful what and how you’re teaching your camel. This is what camels respond to best when training & handling:
Just think of the natural herd environment, there is always a level of respect that one camel has for another, so your job when training and handling is to give them respect and they’ll give it back!
Work with the camel’s strengths.
Think about what a camel will do in its own time. They will sit down and walk around. For an un-trained camel you need to build on their strengths so that trust is gained and they feel proud of themselves (which they do)! Other training can come later. Consistently build on their strengths, especially if they are young.
Now it’s over to you!
What was your main take-away from this and are there somethings that you’d like to implement right away? Tell us in the comments below!
We all know how important it is to keep our animals healthy. ‘Dr Google’ is most people’s favourite Go To for diagnosis and cures – we’re all guilty of it! But, there’s an underlining problem with Googling camel husbandry information, because, lets face the hard facts here, information found online can be extremely contradictive, in technical language you can’t understand or in a foreign language.
Read more below or if you like to do more than one thing at a time, listen to the audio…
Another hard fact is that most vets are not specialised with caring for camels so they mostly guess diagnosis and treat the camel based on their experience and knowledge with other animals (sidenote: veterinarians do a great job, we’re not knocking veterinarians here). It’s a painful truth that you buy a camel (that usually you’ve been saving up for a long time, especially in the U.S) and all is wonderful, BUT you cannot seem to get any straight answers from anyone on what to feed your camel so that they stay healthy.
A lot of camels get the ‘trail and error’ treatment to health. Now, don’t think that is such a bad thing as we (humans) do it to ourselves – you know that doughnut that tastes sooooo good but you know you’ll regret it latter on…. You get the point. The most unfortunate thing about camels is that they are a less common animal compared to cattle, horses, dogs, cats etc. therefore camels don’t get all those wonderful studies done on them like the more common ‘household’ pets or animals do. There are camel studies, but just not as many as we need.
So, without us being veterinarians or scientists specialising in camels and only camels what can we offer….? Well, to be upfront…Common Sense. Okay, maybe it’s not that simply, but the idea is simple: Giving where the camel originates from – Desert environments, for both Dromedary and Bactrian – What Would They Eat? Or WWTE, and how can we, as camel owners replicate that as much as possible?
One thing you might not know about me personally (Tara) is I tend to be a real nerd about food and health, some people say Commander Like, but don’t listen to them! In all our camel’s diet I replicate everything as best as I can from their originated desert environment. I really nerd over it! It keeps me up at night – truly! I’m lucky enough to see camels in their natural environment here in Australia. When we go out on camel treks and expeditions I’m out there with the camels while they feed doing my ‘field studies’, if you like. Seeing what they eat, why they eat it, why one day they’ll eat a load of something and the next day not even look at it and How often they drink in the winter compared to the summer – It’s all so interesting and incredibly insightful!
To narrow it down, and know that not everyone lives out in the desert or wants too for that matter, we’ve narrowed it down to some key ‘ingredients’, you could call it, for a camel to maintain good health. Now, full disclosure here, this does not mean that we haven’t had illness happen to any of our camels. We’ve had camels die from unknown and known causes. It happens, it’s devastating, but it is the cycle of life and with camels, I’ve noticed, it really has to do with genetics too.
So, with all that said, lets have a look at Prevention Before The Cure type clues to know if your camels is healthy and catering to it’s camel husbandry needs.
3 Signs That a Camel Is Healthy
1. It’s all about the humps.
As you may already know, a camel stores pure fat in its hump (not water). The fat, in short, can be used for H2o needs or nutrition (feed) needs. Camel’s are desert creatures, so this makes complete sense that they store food and water for more trying times. Also, the hump is the last resort to their survival. A Camel can starve and dehydrate if all their ‘stores’ have been used up. To us camel owners our job is to keep the humps healthy, but not overweight.
How to know if a camel is overweight? If you cannot clearly see and feel where the hump finishes and ends on the side of the camel – there should be a ‘dip’ where the hump ends – then they’re most likely overweight. Most pet (and Australian wild) camels are overweight – some of ours included! Like any species that gets overweight, it will eventually put strain on vital organs.
Without a hump a camel is not a camel. That’s not scientifically true, but it does speak volume for a camel on the unhealthy scale. When hump reserves are starting to diminish, like floppy humps in Bactrian’s or little to no hump in dromedary’s, the camel will feel the strain on their body and become more susceptible to illness and parasites. Anyone who has had a camel underweight will tell you how hard it is trying it is to get weight back on the camel. It’s a real challenge. So our job, as camel owners, is to maintain the hump reserves with good, nutritional feed and important and necessary minerals.
2. It’s the way they look – Skin Condition.
Skin is a great indicator on what’s going on inside the camels body. Things like unexplained lesions, missing hair (obviously not during shedding times), fungi and wart like growths are a camel owner’s guide to assessing where the camel’s heath is at. Often these things can be overlooked, but the signs are always there. Personally, in our experience, 9 times out of 10 any camel’s ‘skin condition’ is a mineral deficiency. Again, this makes complete sense, because their natural diet in the wild consists of so many different minerals they obtain from plants, trees, shrubs, even eating bark off trees. While on camel trek once we witnessed a camel pick up a marrow bone, off the desert floor, and eat it in full, just chewed it down – we thought surely a tooth is broke! But no, the camel needed the important minerals within that marrow bone.
3. Attitude is everything – Behavioural Changes.
This may seem obvious, but you’ll be surprised how many camel owners don’t pick on the initial signs. There are ALWAYS initial signs of unwell-ness and it’s often in a camel’s behaviour – maybe you wonder why we harp on so much as to why it’s so important to connect, bond and build trust with your camel… There is a reason to the madness, because it not only matters to the training and handling, but YOU will be the first to know if something isn’t right with your camel, because you will KNOW your camel.
Behavioural signs could be: isolation from paddock mates, won’t come up for greetings (if normally do) and won’t eat (that’s an obvious one). The behavioural signs are just as diverse as each individual camel, but those are the 3 main points, especially the isolation from their paddock mates.
I’m a very intuitive person, and a mother, so it can be easy for me to pick up if something ain’t right with a camel (they’re my babies after all). But, If I don’t know a camel too well and I distrust my intuition, I go for the camel’s eyes – the eyes always tell if something isn’t right there will be a dullness to their eyes and a sort of ‘sorry’ look playing out. Another way to tell besides the eyes is a camel’s upper lip. If the camel’s upper lip is slightly ‘kissed’ looking and protruding from their upper plate (given it’s not their natural form), this is a tale tail signs that they’re in discomfort and further investigation needs to take place ASAP.
Now before you rush out to take a look at your camel to check for the 3 signs to know if they are health, do you want to learn more about the nutritional and mineral requirements of a camel(one hump or two)? We’ve created an easy to read (and digest) guide to camel health. This is especially for you and your domesticated camel(s), because most of us don’t live in the desert. We’ll give you simple action steps that you can start to implement TODAY to maintain your camel’s good health.Grab a copy now!
There’s no doubt about it – baby camels are extremely cute, cuddly and simply adorable to be around. It’s a pure delight in watching a baby camel [or anything for that matter] grow and mature. You feel apart of their special life journey and quite frankly, honoured to share it with them.
This video moves beyond the husbandry requirements (How To care for a baby camel) into the undertone that needs addressing on raising baby camels in a domesticated environment. Believe it or not it can actually be dangerous to the new camel owner or even the experienced camel handler. Often cuteness overrules the ‘warning signs’ or the pure desire to own a camel.
Our mission on this planet is to share as much camel information that we know through our blog (here), videos, in-person clinics and the like. This subject on raising (training & Handling) baby camels is a very important one that needs addressing before its too late.
In this video we are talking about Raising Baby Camels and Enforcing Important Boundaries – beyond paddock/housing needs.
You’ll meet one of our baby camels on our farm – Shilo along with 16 other camels.
Minute breakdown of video
1:30 – What most people assume about baby camels
3:47 – The challenge of training baby camels
4:36 – How a baby camel REALLY thinks
6:06 – The best environment for a baby camel to learn
6:49 – a surprise guest
7:00 – 3 Tips to Raising Baby Camels
12:04 – Recap of raising baby camels and setting boundaries
13:43 – Never work with kids and camels (bloopers)
Now, it’s over to you…
What did you learn from this video that you’d like to start implementing with your camel?
Or what experience have you had with baby camels that had you wondering about their way of thinking?
Leave a comment below and let us know your thoughts…
If you’ve ever wanted to sit down with some fellow camel lovers and trainers then this is exactly what our ‘coffee [camel] chats’ (minus the real coffee) are all about.
Episode 1 of Coffee [Camel] Chat
1:11 – We discuss why it’s important to get a camel to sit (hoosh, kush, sit down) wether you have a pet, working or dairy camel. We also share several different circumstances on when you might need to have a camel to sit on command even if you’d thought you’d never need to use it.
5:40 – We discuss dairy Camels and whether they should or shouldn’t be trained...?
9:54 – Is bonding with camels really that important for proper training? We share some ‘stories’ on this exact question.
13:34 – Our opinion on Treat Training Camels, how a camel thinks in these circumstances and how and why it works.
We also have a few guest appearances – you’ll have to watch to find out!
Now it’s over to you: can you relate to any of the topics discussed and if so which one and why? Leave a comment below.
Do you have a camel question for us? If so write your question below in the comments – we’ll be sure to respond here or in another episode of our Coffee [Camel] Chat.
We’re putting ourselves under a great, big, bright spotlight here and bringing a much misunderstood and debated subject to the forefront. When there’s animals and issues concerning welfare are involved everyone has an opinion – especially when it comes to something like the For and Against using nose pegs on camels. We like the that the discussion can be an open one and we especially like it when people question the use of a camel nose peg, as you are about to find out there are many different ways people use them.
One of the most discussed topics when dealing with camels is about nose pegs. These discussions can become rather heated with emotional as viewpoints can vary almost as much as the backgrounds of the camels and their handlers themselves. So what are the arguments For and Against the use of the nose pegs on camels and is there a happy medium to assist balancing the scales of this widely discussed topic?
There is a story (or myth) that once a horseman tried putting a horses ‘bit’ into a camels mouth only to find out that it was impossible due to their mouth biology – it would impede the bottom jaw swinging widely when the camel is chewing the cud
The use of nose pegs has a deep root in the pages of cameleering history, from many different camel cultures. In a majority of traditional camel cultures, nose pegs are made from wooden stakes which are pierced into the soft side flesh of the camels nose or elsewhere on the nose or upper lip, which then a string or line is attached and used to control the camels neck and head movements, hence the overall body movements of the camel.
Many traditional camel cultures still use this method of control over the animals and one could easily argue that this IS, in fact acceptable being in third world conditions and locations where survival is key. Considering environmental factors, feed, water availability, sex and ages of the camels, timing of the bull camels hormonal cycles, wealth of the camel owners and accessibility to modern handling and training techniques are considered factors for the use of nose pegs.
We’ve personally had a variety of exposure to camel nose pegs. In India we’ve seen rings in one nostril and wooden pegs through two nostrils. In Mongolia we’ve seen the camel’s upper lip (not nose) been ‘pegged’ and of course about four different varieties of nose pegs used in Australia from one piece timber pegs to polycarbonate two piece (which is now what we use). Some are confronting and concerning and others you wouldn’t even know that they are there. All in all, experience, an open mind and an inkling to understanding individual situations does help.
In more affluent and developed countries, the debate has taken a new twist over the past decades swinging towards the argument that perhaps nose pegs are not required at all? How can that be since the much longer lasting camel cultures are still using traditional nose pegs in such a manner as they have done so for thousands of years?
We need to look at some of the more fundamental differences of the two camel culture sets to find answers to this question and answer the equally important question of how can camels become controlled effectively without the use of nose pegs.
Two sayings come to mind (with exception of Bull camels):
A Happy Camel is a Safe Camel.
A Hungry and Thirsty Camel is a Dangerous Camel.
We’ll come back to these two points a little later, but keep an open mind as you read further. These two points or ‘sayings’ about the camel will help you (the handler, cameleer) see differently when understanding safe camel handling and a camel’s main priority in life.
Compassion For Camels and Humans, Who Wins The Day?
The more developed camel cultures (like most people reading this) have the luxury of being in a position to consider and implement more of the elements to a camel’s life that all good camel owners strive for. We’re talking plenty good quality feed and a wide variety of the camels feeding preferences. Generally speaking, camels that belong to owners from affluent countries are well fed, well watered and have a fairly sedately life compared to that of the working camel in a third world country where the owners, and their families, depend upon the camel for daily life requirements. Camels in many arid zones around the world are often synonymous with low standards of living for the owners and generally speaking, life is really hard for both humans and camels.
These camels, in third world countries, may, and do experience long periods of hunger and thirst, hard work and often great levels of control is needed by the handler.
Now lets go back to our two major points about camels:
A Happy Camel is a Safe Camel.
A Hungry and Thirsty Camel is a Dangerous Camel.
When a camel has more than adequate resources and they are ‘happy, fat and full’ (another saying of ours) they are easier to handle as they’re not thinking about food or water. Just think when you’re hungry or thirsty, all you can think about is food and water and sometimes get agitated, same is said for the camel. No matter what species, we’re all driven by food and water – The key elements to life.
This abundance for the affluent camel (affluent in the camels case is having plenty of good quality food, a wide variety of favourite foods – not treats, good clean water, necessary vitamin and mineral supplements and veterinary access), steers the camel towards being a safer camel, especially with correct and carefully structured training, handling procedures and even routines in place, compared to the camel who is continuously looking for food, vitality and water. The affluent camel is more likely to become compliant for the handler and therefore when trained correctly and compassionately the camel will not have the need for such a device as a nose peg in order for the handler maintain control over the camel. Not once have we ever used a nose peg to train a camel.
So often is the case in less affluent situations, the main focus is on the owner’s and their family’s daily requirements and less of the camel’s requirements purely owing to situation and circumstances. These camels are more than likely to require the use of the nose peg for control and maintenance of work practises. Therefore, who can be the judge?
It’s so easy for us more fortunate ones to stand on the sideline critiquing camel handling in countries less fortunate than us. Sometimes it feels like one has to choose between human rights (right to food source – i.e. camel’s milk or trading selling for money), or animal rights (right to be treated fairly). How can anyone choose? From where we’re sitting we cannot choose between human and animal as we see them equally, so we’ve made it our ‘job’ to do the best we can in the county we live in and help as many other people understand a camel’s thinking for good handling and training practices.
Much of the argument of For and Against the use of nose pegs has been centred around different opinions within the more western countries and, once again, there are strong reasons to have nose pegs and also not to have nose pegs.
Nose pegs, along with other methods of control over the camel certainly do have their place in our more modern camel cultures, but they are not necessary for each and every camel in each and every situation.
Never assume that all camels need a nose peg for training or handling.
Take for example the camel that is located in a situation where it’s never going to leave the confines of a secure property, is never going to be utilised in a commercial sense, i.e. riding operation or even in contact with members of the public, obviously won’t require a camel nose peg.
Camel’s that are supposedly ‘uncontrollable’ by their ‘nature’ – these camels are few and far between. Again, good, non-violent and non-dominating training over time usually leads to good camels not needing nose pegs, a rope attached to a halter is mostly sufficient.
The camel whose handler has effectively trained the camel with good quality non-dominating, non-violent and no treat training techniques has the trust of its owner and the owner has the trust of the camel, so much so that you can almost read each other like books. This is not to say that at times, the camel may “spook” at a new situations that it comes across, but is nevertheless under an atmosphere of mutual respect and understanding. When under periods of added stress and pressure, i.e. walking the camel along a road with traffic, the handler always has the option of using a nose loop or a chocker halter as a backup.
For the commercial operator, it is our personal and professional opinion that nose pegs are essential, however it is how the nose peg is used/handled and with what materials it is made from that makes all the difference between a professional cameleer’s approach and a novice.
A camel riding / camel expedition / camel safari operation, for example, could be using one of the following methods of camel control, starting from the least amount of potential control to the most potential control using ropes, halters, chocker halters and nose pegs:
A lead rope tied around the neck of the camel and attached to the camel in front.
A lead rope attached to a halter and then to the camel in front.
A lead rope being attached to a chocker halter and then to the camel in front
A rope attached to a nose peg and then to the camel in front
Lead camel with nose peg and hander with nose peg line, remaining camels one behind the other with headstalls and lead ropes and breakable nose lines attached to camel in front.
Overall, as far a camel management and safety for the riders, operators and camels themselves, the 5th option is by far the best practise option. As the operator is in control of the nose line of the lead camel, he/she is responsible for the welfare of the camels nose and would need to manage the pressure placed upon the nose peg to ensure that the use of the nose line and nose peg is regulated at a safe and gentle level. The camels following behind have breakable nose lines without any damage to the nose tissue and the nose peg – New nose lines are easy to replace, you can’t replace a camels nose or memory. In a legal matter, should anything ever happen and a rider is injured under the instruction of a professional camel riding operator, the operator has protected himself / herself and the rider as best as they could by using the 5th option.
What Do We Use And Why?
Well, it depends what we’re doing. Most of our herd of camels don’t have nose pegs, but most of our more experienced camels (working camels) have nose pegs: When we operate on the beach offering camel rides we do headstalls with leads & breakable nose lines (#5 above). When trekking (no riders) we use head stalls only, expect the lead camel has a nose line (like above picture). “But, if you’re so sure of Trust Based Camel Training, why use nose pegs at all?” We hear you ask. We’re glad you asked!
As stated above we never train camels using nose pegs, it goes against all Trust Based Camel Training values.
Even when a camel has a nose peg, we lead by the head, not the nose. The nose line is there when we require additional control (for example, 10 camels bucking in a string).
In a riding operation where all camel’s nose pegs are used, again, lead by headstall by camel in front and they all (expect lead camel with handler) have a breakable nose lead so no damage of nose can ever occur.
A Camel’s nose peg can be used Gently and with Compassion under the right introduction and handling.
The 6th option has all camels connected one behind the other with non-breakable nose leads – a massive risk to camels and handlers using unbreakable nose lines.
Here’s the ‘risks’ of unbreakable nose lines used on camels:
Should the camels spook and go into a “buck”, there is high risk the camel will either break their nose pegs (internal splintering can occur), rip the nose peg out of the pierced hole in their soft tissue or worst still, rip the soft tissue of their nose, therefore requiring stitches and increasing the risk of infection and bacterial poisoning.
Or simply, the camel in front or behind losses its footing and slips, it take all the other camels with it (as they are attached to one another) and potential all nose pegs are broken and or nose pegs ripped completely out.
Hence why we do not endorse non-breakable nose peg lines, for the safety of camel and it’s handler, (except for the lead camel under the control of the handler).
To Nose Peg or Not To Nose Peg? Here’s a Little Story That Might Help…
We once heard of a very experienced cameleer who had a very trusted and experienced camel. This camel had all the trust in the world for it’s handler and vice versa. One day when walking along a road, the camel was suddenly startled by an unexpected vehicle travelling along the road they were accustomed to. As this camel was an experienced and well behaved camel under instruction, the camel did not have any other form of control other than a lead rope and halter. The camel went into a wild bucking session and luckily, the vehicle managed to swerve, narrowing missing the bucking camel and the handler. Much kudos to the cameleer who somehow, by using all of their expertise of camel handling, avoided a potentially disastrous situation.
A dangerous situation not only for the camel, the cameleer, the vehicle driver or anyone else this incident could have involved, but also to all camel owners in the sense that camels would have been placed into the spotlight by media and the uninformed in that camels could have been referred to as being uncontrollable, dangerous and unreliable, hence adding to the myths that they are cantankerous, biting, kicking, spitting creatures to be feared.
Fortunately for all, the cameleer, being a responsible camel owner and handler ensured that from that day forward, the camel wore a nose peg and line after the handler trained the camel into gently using a nose peg and nose line as well as headstall and lead at all times when walking and operating the camel in all situations and locations.
One can only imagine the potential consequences if the vehicle had of struck the camel, the handler and / or others in its attempts to swerve to avoid the uncontrollable scared camel and handler.
Knowing this particular story a responsible camel owner would seriously consider the options available to them for methods of control in an unpredictable or emergency situation. A camel handlers level of training/experience – especially type of training of both the camel and the cameleer has real risk (including litigation) that the handler/owner must be willing to accept. (Note: All responsible camel owners should seriously consider having a high quality insurance policy purely as a safeguard along with having received or invested in specialised professional camel training and handling).
Training Camels Into Nose Pegs – Gently
As you know by now we don’t endorse using nose pegs to train camels, but what is required is training a camel into the nose peg. A camel’s first use of a nose peg is crucial to it’s mental development and they are much like elephants – they never forget! A camel will not forget it’s first experience with a nose line attached to a nose peg that’s why it’s important to us that we cover proper and good handling of a camel’s nose peg for the first time or for the most experience camel – which happens to be all the same… Gently. We teach these gentle methods to our Cameleer Academy community through instructional videos as well as onsite during our Level 2, Advanced Camel Training.
Fair and compassionate camel handling is the aim. As a camel owner you’re 100% responsible for whatever happens to the camels in your possession. Assume the camel is always the victim, as 99.9% of the time it’s the lack of understand of the camel that leads to camels being ‘unpredictable’ or ‘misbehaving’ therefore using the best possible resources available to you is key: learning camel phycology and good handling and training practices.
Nose Peg Insertion
Insertion of a camels nose peg, ideally should be under anaesthetic and veterinary practice. In the modern world we have these options, so if you have it, take it. Our camels are done on the farm with a vet present, we instruct the vet on where the small incision (not hole) needs to be made for our style of nose peg. Again, our camel community have access to veterinary instructional videos as it’s our upmost priority that information be delivered which makes mistakes avoidable.
In other countries it’s a whole different ball game.
Types of Nose Pegs
Some nose pegs would be more accepted in the western world than the more ‘traditional’ style nose pegs in other parts of the world. For instance if we were to insert a traditional Mongolian camel nose peg (top left picture above) into one of our camels here in Australia we’re sure that the animal welfare groups will be called upon.
Traditionally there are many styles of nose pegs along with different ways the nose pegs are “inserted” through the nostril, bridge of nose or lip. Most were and still are, made from wood. Some were made from bone. Essentially, the principle of the nose pegs from around the world throughout traditional camel cultures is the same: using a peg of sorts attached to a rope or string to control a camel.
It goes without saying that we have learnt a great deal since traditional times as technology, veterinary and science advances have escalated in recent years and this can be directly related to the use of camel nose pegs as well.
Camel Nose Pegs, Potential Health Risks
Taking into consideration our discussion earlier in this blog, of the differences between affluent and not so affluent camel cultures around the world, there is greater veterinary knowledge available regarding the safe and humane methods of inserting such an item as a nose peg than what we have ever had previously. We have a greater understanding of infection control and management and even of the best possible materials to use in the creation of a safe nose peg that doesn’t splinter, break and or harbour dangerous bacterial infections. To take advantage of this new knowledge involves having an open mind, prepared to make an investment of both knowledge and willingness to strive for better.
For example, traditional wooden nose pegs can splinter and even break.This can lead to the camels nose becoming infected which, if left untreated, can dangerously lead to septicaemia. Septicaemia has the potential of being fatal.
Even if the nose peg isn’t splintered or broken, bacteria can continuously reproduce in the pores of the wood / bone of the traditional style nose pegs, which, can continue to infect the camel even if the camel is undergoing a course of effective antibiotics. Only if the infection is fully removed from the pores of the wooden / bone nose peg or, the nose peg is totally removed and a new sterile nose peg inserted in conjunction with a course of effective and specific antibiotic, will the infection be cured.
Modern materials such as polycarbonate can make excellent nose pegs which don’t allow for any bacteria to harbour on the surface or inside the material and will never break under normal use.
Safer Alternatives for Camel Nose Pegs
The nose pegs we use and get custom engineered have a removable end tip resulting in the nose peg being easily removed from the camels nose should the need arise without distressing or hurting the camel. These removable tipped nose pegs are also easier to insert into the nose piercing than the traditional solid ended nose pegs as there is no stretching of the flesh when being inserted into the nose.
Owning and handling a camel is a pure delight and also involves a high level of responsibility and this includes the methods used to control the camel. Whether or not you as a camel owner decide to use a nose peg, the responsibility for the health and welfare of the camel, the camel’s handlers and all those in proximity of the camel is yours to bear. More importantly, it’s important that if you do decide to nose peg your camel(s) please seek a professional advice in management and handling – for your and your camel’s sake. Where here to help!
Everyone’s situation is unique in it’s own right. What’s right for you may not be right for others. The choice is yours at the end of the day.
Have you got your free camel training video series yet? Click Here
At a glance you wouldn’t think that there was any appropriate place to put a saddle on a dromedary (one humped) camel. We’ve often wondered who made camel riding a ‘thing’ in the first place. Camels have a flat spine, but their hump makes for awkward riding without a saddle.
If you’re considering riding your camel or are already doing so the most important things you need to know:
Is your camel saddle property fitted and sized for your camel(s)?
Do you know how to fit and saddle your camel to avoid saddle sores or other discomforts?
We’re got a Tutorial for you on How to Saddle a Camel with an All Purpose Camel Saddle . We wanted to make sure that any information we put out there about saddling a camel was good information and that it was detailed as the camel’s comfort is first an foremost THE most important thing. We’ve seen too many saddles been Incorrectly fitted, sized and put on a camel only for the owner to wonder why their camel was playing up. The video run time is about 20 mins, but don’t fast forward as you’ll miss important points.
In the video below we cover all the bases that you need to know to saddle a camel for their comfort, whether you be riding a camel or going on a camel trek or camel expedition. The All Purpose Camel saddle is as it says – for all purposes.
Watch the video below for our video tutorial on How to Saddle a Camel.
Tell us in the comments below if you found this video helpful – and if you found Queen Sheba just as adorable as we find her!
Being a new camel owner can be a nervous time, questions linger and the Google search begins: How to Care for a Camel. Unfortunately there isn’t much information available on the World Wide Web about camel care, camel training or camel husbandry, which can make you wonder if you’re even getting the right information in the first place!?
The camel, being an exotic animal, can be more of a challenge to get feeding right alongside any western medical needs, holistic care and training than any other animal you have experienced. In short, a camel cannot be treated like any other animal. They are complex creatures emotionally and physically, especially their biology. A camel owner is always learning, unfortunately it’s often trial and error, which brings us to why we wanted to write and share these camel care and camel husbandry tips with you which are extracts from our Camel Husbandry eBook. We have learnt this camel care information over many years and think it’s only fair that the information that we’ve learnt is shared with other caring and like minded camel owners or those considering of bringing camels into their lives.
#1 Most common mistake made is camels being cared for the same as other animals are cared for. Camel’s are unique in biology and behaviour and must be care for accordingly.
In the western world, veterinarians often lack the research and experience of camels welfare and health. Vets often work with the camel owner’s knowledge to work out what is best for the camel and again, it can be a trail and error circumstances between professional and camel owner. All camel owners need to keep an open mind on camel welfare, knowledge and learning. As a camel owner you must acquire a mindset of openness to new information without justifying any ‘gut instincts’ and the like. There is a lot of camel information offered if one asks, but not all of it is good, accurate information. It’s important to do your research, follow your gut instinct and remain open minded.
Here we will cover basic camel care, what to look out for, how to diagnose, feeding, prevention before the cure, and husbandry methods.
Tip# 1 – Replicating Their Natural Habitat
We know for a fact that most of us don’t live in desert environments, which is a call for any camel owner to get thinking on replicating the camel’s original environment (the desert). It’s important to try to re-create this as best as you can in a camel’s domestic environment with you.
Think, what the camel would be eating? The change of season and the bushes and herbs available to them for self-medication? The environment? And so forth. A camel that is often in a very wet environment will need some serious man-made adjustments to their environment in order to keep the camel stress free and healthy.
We explain this in more detail in our Introduction to Camel Husbandry eBook.
Tip #2 Limiting a Camel’s Exposure to Stress
Camels are highly sensitive creatures. If a camel falls ill they will go ‘down hill’ quickly, it’s important that as a camel owner that you learn to read early signs of potential health hazards – which comes in time and having a good camel mentor to call on if needed. Camels are hardy animals, that is, in their perfect desert environment, but once they are removed from their ‘camel heaven’ a more hands on approach to their care is needed. A camel stress is a major factor to consider in a camel health as one stress on the body (hence immune system) can lead to another. Stress will lower the immune system response, which can evolve into bigger issues down the track. It’s not always easy to tell if a camel is stressed (especially if it’s internal. sometimes that doesn’t show up until weeks / months later when it might be too late), so we’ve created a short list below on some camel stress related issues to look out for and consider. Consider all the information below careful for your camel’s current, domesticated environment. Below is a shortlist of stresses in a camel’s domesticated environment:
Environmental Stress and Illness
Training and Handling Stress
The above stress indicators are explained in full detail in our Introduction to Camel Husbandry eBook
Tip #3 Transporting Your Camel
One of the most common questions we get it how to transport a camel(s). You might be surprised to hear that the answer really depends on the size of the camel. For young camels aged from 2 – 4 (even 5 or 6) years old, most likely can be transported in double horse float or something of equitant size. This really is size dependent though. Before choosing a mode of transport for your camel, measure heights if the camel is above 4 years old. A large trailer or even a truck might be necessary. If transporting camels in large numbers, a large truck will be in order. It’s important that any hired help have camel experience. Camel’s do not and will not respond to be treated like cattle. The process can be less stressful for the animals and less frustrating for transporter if experience is at hand. Loading a camel (for the first time) should be done under the mentorship of experienced camel handlers unless the camel is experienced. It can be a frustrating, stressful and sometimes unsuccessful endeavor otherwise.
When a camel travels they like to sit down once the vehicle begins to move. During the travel they will freely stand and sit at their own leisure (unless the camel is tied down).
Tip #4 Parasites in Camels (De-Worming Camels)
Prevention before the cure is a good rule of thump to follow when it comes to managing parasites in camels. Keeping up the mineral content in the camels bodies is essential as natural minerals such as copper will help keep parasites at bay, but if the camel has already got parasites copper will not help rid them. Stress [from parasites] can decease immune response to parasites in the body, and often result in weight loss, hence prevention before the cure where possible. If you are concerned about parasites in your camel request a fecal egg count from your local vet.
Worming of your camel is a subject whereby common sense needs to prevail. If you are living in a worm-habituated region, putting your camel onto a regular worming program is wise. There are numerous products on the market but as there is always a risk of the parasites becoming immune to worming preparations, it is advised to regularly change the brands / formulas of your worming regime.
This is a topic you should be in consultation with your local vet about.
This complex subject alongside camel de-wormers is explained in more details in the Camel Husbandry eBook
Tip #5 What Does (or should) a Camel Eat and How Much?
Camels, like cattle, sheep goats and Alpacas are ruminates. Camels ruminate their food – meaning they eat food, regurgitate it and chew again, often called ‘chewing their cud’. This is why you more often than not see camels chewing regularly. Although camels ruminate, they are not true ruminants, as they lack the four well-defined stomachs of the ruminants. A camel only has three of the four ruminate stomachs.
Camels are browsers by nature, with a split upper lip well suited to this purpose. They are normally selective feeders and eat the freshest vegetation available. In a study carried out by Doerges and Heuckes, on Newhaven station, Australia, they observed the Camels ate 81.5% of the available plant species. Grasses are eaten primarily after rain, and before herbs and phorbs are available. Wild Camels are mobile feeders and frequent remote salt lakes where plants high in electrolyte and moisture are present.
Domesticated camels need a diet high in bulk. They are quite adaptable to the gradual introduction of supplementary (e.g. hay) food to their diets. In the wild, or feral state they search for plants high in salts. In a yarded situation access to salt is thus considered essential.
The camel browses or grazes for 8 hours each day and will take another 6 to 8 hours to chew the cud.
The camel can eat sharp, thorny plants which other animals cannot eat. Camels can reach branches of trees and bushes to a height of 3 meters. The camel eats these woody plants by using its strong canine (dog) teeth to crush the wood – often if a camel is de-barking a tree it can mean they are low in copper. Recommend feed and ratios are explained further in the Camel Husbandry eBook.
Tip #6 A Camel’s Diet, Part 2, Salt Intake
Camels need pure rock salt in their diet. The reason being is because it’s regularly lost in their urine and researches have measured that an adult camel will consume anywhere from 120 – 150g of salt per day to compensate. Salt is very important for the camel. A camel needs eight times as much salt as do cattle and sheep. A camel needs about 1kg of salt a week in their diet, whether that is through plants or rock salt. Go to your local pool shop or hardware store and get a bag of loose (pool) 100% salt (25kg)- no additives. Keep it in their paddock (in a feeder/bucket) so they can help themselves. If you find your camel is eating a lot of salt, do not worry, they need it and will regulate it themselves. Make sure salt is always available.
A Word on Salt Blocks: Camels do not have long enough tongues to lick salt blocks nor can they get their daily requirements from such things, therefore they will begin to chew the blocks which in turn can cause premature teeth wearing and eventually they won’t be able to eat food and they will die at a younger age due to starvation. Loose salt is best. Another reason we suggest loose salt is that camels can form, what veterinarians call, Compulsive Licking Syndrome, because of the fact that a camel would have to compulsively lick the block in order to get their daily dose of salt.
Tip #7 Non-Emergency Camel First Aid
Like any animal, no doubt, the camel will require some camel first aid in their lifetime. As camel owners it’s up to us to do everything we can to prevent such things, but the reality is that sometimes it just happens. Below is a shortlist of some common camel first aid issues amongst camel owners. Each subject is explained in full with recommendations in the Camel Husbandry eBook.
Wounds & Abrasions
Diarrhea / Scouring
Gelding/Castration of Bulls
We (Russell & Tara) have been involved with camels, camel care and camel training for a combined 20+ years. There has been our fair share of heart break with camel deaths and unresolved illness – something’s unexplainable and undiagnosed. We’ve gained more knowledge on caring for camels and learnt the early signs of, very common, camel dietary, camel medical and camel husbandry issues. We’ve lived in the Australian outback (desert) with camels, we’ve lived on greener pastures with camels and also in tropical locations, each time finding out what works and what doesn’t work when it comes to caring for camels.
If you’re reading this you are probably a proud camel owner or considering brining camels into your life, either way, you will face your challenges of camel husbandry and camel welfare, but the good news is that our detailed Introduction to Camel Husbandry eBook will help you along your journey.
The writings in this Introduction to Camel Husbandry book are in Layman terms, easy to understand and, most importantly, easy to implement. This is a non-medical book and that gives the basic knowledge and understand of a camels needs based off our experiences as owing camels in a range of different environments from Australian deserts to coast lands.
Topics Covered in our Introduction to Camel Husbandry eBook:
About The Camel
– Physical Indicators
– Early Signs of Camel Stress
– Environmental Stress & Illness
– Training and Handling
– Separation Stress
Purchasing Camels, Which Camel is Right for you?
Bringing Your Camel Home
– Paddocks and Fencing
– Transporting Your Camel
– Suggested Management Plan
– Parasitic Symptoms
– Camel Food and Ratios
– Weed / Favourable Foods
– Salt Intake
– Mineral Deficiency Symptoms
Non Emergency First Aid
– Wounds and Abrasions
– Diarrhea / Scouring
– Underweight Camels
– Weight Gain Recipe
– Muscular Issues
– Slow Improvers
– Gelding / Castration of Bulls
Camel First Aid Kit
– Nose Pegs
– Camel Halters
– Camel Hobbles
– Camel Saddles
– Camel Harness
The perfect place to start for new camels owners, those considering owning camels and even those that have had camels for sometime and want to add to their knowledge on How to Care for Camels.