Bactrian Camel: 9 Facts About Ladakh’s Double-Humped Giants!

The ‘Bactrian Camel’  can be found in the cold desert of India’s Nubra Valley, Ladakh in the state of Jammu & Kashmir. Having survived generations of harsh climatic conditions, the Bactrian Camels have evolved to be strong by build and gentle by nature. Not many know about these two-humped, furry beasts. Here are 9 reasons why meeting them should be on your bucket list!

Bactrian camel in Nubra valley TUTC glamping

Do you think this Bactrian Camel is smiling at the camera, or is it just us?

The Bactrian Camel – What You Must Know!

Ever heard of them? Okay, how about ‘Dromedary Camels’? It’s time to break the ice. There are only two species of camels in the world – Dromedary Camels with ‘one hump’ and Bactrian Camels with ‘two humps’. Intrigued?

Herds of Bactrian Camels with their masters, eagerly awaiting their riders.

A herd of the Bactrian Camel rest in the sands of Nubra Valley.

Where Do You Find A Bactrian Camel?

Unlike the common single-humped Dromedary Camels, Bactrian Camels are not found in the hot deserts. They are special not just because of their double humps, but also because of their habitat. They are found only in the cold deserts of Nubra Valley in India, China, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Afghanistan.

9 Fun Facts About The Bactrian Camel That You Ought To Know!

A flock of Wild Bactrian Camels traversing the steppes following the trails of nature

A herd of Wild Bactrian Camels traversing the steppes following the trails of nature.

1. A Salty Affair – The Wild Bactrian Camel is the only mammal on land that can survive on salty water, something which even their domesticated counterparts are not capable of.

2. An Exotic Name from an Exotic Land -They get their name from the historical region of Bactria in Central Asia. It is believed that the Great Philosopher Aristotle first referred to these exotic animals as Bactrian Camels to distinguish them from the single-humped camels.

3. Bactrian Camels evolved out of Dromedary Camels. They are the reason why Dromedary Camels exist, with the latter evolving to adapt to the hot deserts by replacing the double-hump with a single-hump.

Reminds you of Arabian Nights? Camels and caravans have from times immemorial always intrigued artists and they are the nomads of every traveller’s dreams

Does this remind you of the Arabian Nights? Camels and caravans have always intrigued artists and most-likely pop-up in the dreams of every desert rider.

4. Shaped Like The Alphabet ‘B’ – If you tilt your heads on your left and look at a Bactrian camel, you get the English alphabet, ‘B’. Similarly if you do the same with a Dromedary camel, you get the English alphabet, ‘D’. Funny, right?

5. Bactrian Camels Eat Whatever They Like! They devour on thorny plants, however, when the vegetation is scarce they can survive on anything from bones to flesh and even sandals to ropes, and tents. Hence the saying, “When the going gets tough, the tough gets going.”

Humans: Surviving the winter is a tough nut to crack. Bactrian Camels: Eh, winter…? What’s that?

Human: Winter is coming. Bactrian Camel: Not today.

6. They Have Superpowers! – They can live through oscillating temperatures between -40° C during winter and 40° C during summer. That is like traveling from the North Pole to the South Pole, isn’t it? A heavy winter coat protects these exotic animals during winter which falls out gradually when the temperature rises only to grow back when there is a drop in the temperature. We now know why they are the Godfathers of Dromedary Camels, don’t we?

7. No Sweat, No Problem – Just like Dromedary Camels, they hardly sweat which helps them sustain several weeks without water.

When thirsty they can drink up to 30 gallons of water in just 13 minutes i.e. 113 litres of water.

When thirsty, a Bactrian camel can drink up to 30 gallons of water in just 13 minutes!

8. What’s In The Hump? – A common misconception about a camel’s hump is that it is used for storing water. A camel’s hump stores fat which gets converted into water and energy, when food is not available.

9. An Empty Sack Can’t Stand Upright” – When Bactrian Camels are out of food for weeks, their humps become flabby and lean side wards. Although, when there is enough food available, the double-humps of a Bactrian camel appear strong and erect.

10. They’re Dying In The Wild – While the domesticated population is pegged to be more than 1 million, those found in the wild are listed as Critically Endangered in the IUCN Red List with their population being reduced to less than 1500. Bactrian camels bear the cruel effects of global warming, hunting and more. Unlike the past, these gentle giants now need our help to survive for generations to come.

The ‘Furry-Silk’ Connection

With no visible signs of life anywhere around, they are all geared up in their furry coats braving the harsh winter

With no visible signs of life anywhere around, they are all geared up in their furry coats braving the harsh winter.

“If civilization is to survive, we must cultivate the science of human relationships – the ability of all people of all kinds, to live together, in the same world at peace.” These words by Franklin D. Roosevelt tells us how much we are interdependent on everything that exists. Our forefathers perhaps understood this concept better than we do now. And the Bactrian Camel is a living example of this universal truth.

Reminisce about the success of the Silk Trade while riding these exotic animals in the Nubra Valley.

Reminisce about the success of the Silk Trade while riding these exotic animals in the Nubra Valley.

It is because they were the driving force behind the stupendous success of the Silk Trade which made many civilizations thrive in harmony. Right from the steppes of Mongolia to the sand dunes of Arabia, they have been there all along, marking their presence in the history books and enabling human contact.

The closure of the Silk Route left the Bactrian Camel wandering or should we say jobless in the Nubra Valley and while they were still busy finding their purpose, humans befriended them. The Bactrain Camels still await your presence at the Nubra Valley. Come, take a ride in  paradise at TUTC’s Chamba Camp in Diskit, and set out on an Arabian adventure!

Editor: Jovita Elveera Mendonca

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About The Author


Sumit Roy is an Editor, Writer, Researcher, Translator and Proofreader at Aatman Innvoations Pvt. Ltd. When not working, he likes to read, write, watch movies or series, play computer games or even better – procrastinate. He believes in free basic education for all and thinks that capitalism first and socialism next can change this world for better.

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