Evaluation and Conservation of Indian Double-Humped Camel
American Association of Zoo Veterinarians Conference 2006
Gorakh Mal, PhD; M.S. Sahani, PhD
National Research Centre on Camel, Bikaner, Rajasthan, India


Bactrian camels are reared under traditional zero input management system. Camels propagate naturally, roaming and grazing on the rangeland all the year round, without any supplementary feeding and housing except for the few working animals and females at the time of parturition. Breeding is seasonal and occurs during the winter (December to March) months. Females reach maturity at the age of 3–4 years, and the reproductive life may continue up to 16–18 years of age. Usually calving occurs once every 2 years. Males reach maturity at 5 years of age and continue to breed up to 15 years of age. No hair clipping is done in Bactrian camels; shed wool is collected by the owners from April to June. In working camels, a wooden nose peck is inserted at around 3 years of age and then camels are trained for work. Before the arrival of winter, working camels are used for transportation of fodder, fuel, wood, stones and manure, etc., for a period of about 1 month.

Hair is one of the important products from Bactrian camel, which is extensively used for manufacture of various items like shawls, coats, caps, sweaters and hand gloves etc. in the village cottage industry of this region. The average annual hair production per camel ranges from 2.5 to 4.0 kg depending upon age. Fifty-six hair samples from 16 calves (below 6 months of age) and 40 adult bactrian camels (above 3 years) were collected and analyzed for fiber quality attributes such as staple length, fiber diameter, and fiber diameter of different types of fiber (pure, hetero, hairy). The staple length was recorded by 10 measurements from each hair sample. Before recording of other parameters, hair samples were processed by washing for 12 hours in benzene and dried in NaOH desiccators for 24 hours. The slides were prepared using liquid paraffin and examined under 500x magnifications in the dermoscope for estimating fiber diameter and percentage of different fiber types based on medullation. Three hundred observations were recorded from each slide to minimize the error. The data were analyzed by using Mixed Model Least Squares and Maximum Likelihood Programme.1

Comparison of different sites (shoulder, mid-side, hump, neck and thigh) indicated significant differences (p<0.01) among most of the hair quality attributes, but the differences were non-significant between the sex. The staple length was found to be highest at the hump site 13.25±1.03 cm followed by neck 10.45±1.15 cm, shoulder 8.38±1.29 cm, mid-side 5.37±1.16 cm and thigh 3.15±1.44 cm. The mean fiber diameter was lowest at thigh 14.56±3.56 µ, mid-side 16.38±2.88 µ, shoulder 26.41±3.19 µ, neck 28.90±2.86 µ and hump site having the highest fiber diameter of 30.74±2.54 µ. The mean fiber diameter of pure, hetero and hairy type followed the similar trend. The higher percentage of pure fiber was found in the mid-side 72.31±3.76, followed by thigh 67.41±4.64, shoulder 60.52±4.16, hump 59.94±3.31 and neck 56.56±3.73.

Comparison between two age groups revealed that the staple length of calves (below 6 months of age) was slightly higher 8.92±1.63 cm than the adults (above 3 years) 7.32±0.58 cm but mean fiber diameter was lower (p<0.01) 15.82±3.67 µ in calves as compared to 30.97±1.77 µ in adults. The staple length and mean fiber diameter indicated superiority of calf’s fibre as compared to adult. The fiber characteristics of Bactrian camel such as fineness and staple length can be considered best as per the specification given by ISI.2 Bactrian camel produces superior quality hair in comparison to dromedary camel.3

Indian double-humped camels are compact, short in height with well-built robust muscular body, and the body color varies from light brown to dark brown.

Biometric data were recorded in double-humped camel covering 13 parameters, the least square means1 of various biometric parameters are presented in Table 1. Significant difference in body length (p<0.05), height at wither (p<0.01), face length (p<0.05), leg length (p<0.01), distance between eyes (p<0.01), hump circumference [front] (p<0.01) and muzzle diameter (p<0.05) were observed between the sexes. The biometric parameters will be helpful in selection of male studs as well as for breed characterization programs.

Table 1. Least squares means (cm) of certain biometric parameters of Bactrian camels


Male (n=3)

Female (n=12)

Overall (n=15)

Body length




Height at wither




Heart girth




Neck length




Face length




Leg length




Distance between eyes




Distance between ears




Ear length




Muzzle diameter




Hump circumference (front)




Hump circumference (rear)




Distance between humps




aSignificant p<0.01
bSignificant p<0.05

In attempt to study the adaptive mechanism of double-humped camel blood samples were collected from nine dromedary (Camelus dromedarius) and six Bactrian (Camelus bactrianus) camels. Hematologic parameters include hemoglobin (Hb), erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) and differential leukocyte count (DLC). Blood hematologic parameters were studied by using standard laboratory methods.4 Macro- and micro-minerals studied were calcium (Ca), phosphorus (P), magnesium (Mg), zinc (Zn), iron (Fe), copper (Cu), cobalt (Co), manganese (Mn) and molybdenum (Mo) by atomic absorption spectrophotometer (Perkin Elmer, Norwalk, USA). Data were analyzed by student t-test.5 The results presented in Table 2 indicate high Hb in Bactrian camels and significant differences (p<0.01) in ESR between single- (1.73±0.09 mm/h) and double-humped (2.47±0.15 mm/h) camels. The differences were significant (p<0.05) for percent eosinophils and lymphocytes.

Table 2. Hematologic and minerals profile of dromedary and Bactrian camels


Single humped (n=9)

Double humped (n=6)

Hb (g/dl)



ESR (mm/h)



Neutrophils (%)



Eosinophils (%)



Lymphocytes (%)



Monocytes (%)



Calcium mg/dl



Phosphorus mg/dl



Magnesium (Mg) mg/dl



Zinc (Zn) µg/dl



Iron (Fe) µg/dl



Copper (Cu) µg/dl



Cobalt (Co) µg/dl



Manganese (Mn) µg/dl



Molybdenum (Mo) µg/dl

Very low

Very low


The serum Ca in dromedary camels (9.73±1.12 mg/dl) was significantly (p<0.05) lower than double-humped camels (15.09±2.26 mg/dl). The difference in serum P was also significant (p<0.01) between dromedary (5.55±0.53 mg/dl) and double-humped (8.54±0.86 mg/dl) camels. The level of Mg was found to be similar in single- and double-humped camels. The concentration of micro-minerals Zn, Fe and Cu was significantly (p<0.01) higher in Bactrian camels (197.75±16.75; 145.00±5.12 and 187.00±7.80 µg/dl) as compared to dromedary (113.60±10.52; 118.50±4.53 and 123.00±5.33 µg/dl) camels. No significant difference was observed in the levels of Co and Mn between dromedary and Bactrian camels. Mo could not be detected in these samples.

Higher level of Hb and Fe are likely to be associated with adaptive mechanism of the double-humped camel to withstand the harsh climate of high altitude. Camel Hb has a greater affinity for oxygen than the Hb of other animals, resulting in more oxygen being taken up per unit volume of red cells.6 The increased affinity for oxygen is a definite advantage for the animal exposed to a relative shortage of oxygen. The types of feed/fodder available in the area also play an important role, as it may influence intestinal absorption and utilization of nutrients. Nutrition, environmental conditions, metabolism and genetics also influence serum mineral profiles.6,7

High mortality is being observed (1:3) in newborn Bactrian calves due to drowning in the Shayok river while crossing. This appears to be the major problem affecting the population to some extent. The camel keepers are following no specific healthcare practices. The important diseases are actinobacillosis, pneumonia, eye diseases associated with corneal opacity, hydropericardium and ectopic pregnancies. A total of 200 fecal samples examined were found negative for any helminthic infections. Thirty blood samples examined did not reveal any hemoprotozoan infection. As found in dromedary camel, ectoparasitic and skin diseases are not a major problem in Bactrian camels.

Bactrian camels can carry loads up to 100 kg as baggage and can work for 6–8 hours daily. Male camels are being regularly used as baggage animals in the month of October and November for transportation of fuel, wood, stones, bags and manure from agricultural fields to village houses.

Due to rapid expansion of roads, the rearing and maintenance of small populations of double-humped camel became unprofitable, and the survival of this species in this region was endangered. The efforts must be made to conserve this endangered species.


The authors thank the Indian Council of Agricultural Research, New Delhi for funding this research project.

Literature Cited

1.  Harvey, W. 1987. Mixed model least-squares and maximum likelihood computer program PC-1 (United States Department of Agriculture, New York).

2.  Indian Standard Institute, 1970. IS: 2900 (Indian Standard Institute, New Delhi).

3.  Sahani, M.S., M. Rathinasabapathy, R.K. Goel, and N.D. Khanna. 1998. Ind. J. Anim. Sci. 68:267–268.

4.  Snedecor, G.W., and W.G. Cochran. 1994. Statistical Methods, 8th ed. Iowa State Univ. Press. Ames, Iowa.

5.  Varley, H. 1980. Practical Clinical Biochemistry. 5th ed. William Heinermann Medical Book Ltd.

6.  Yagil, R. 1985. The Desert Camel, Comparative Physiological Adaptation. Thur AG Offsedruck, Pratteln, Switzerland. Pp. 81

7.  Tietz, N.W. 1970. Fundamentals of Clinical Chemistry. WB Saunders Company, Philadelphia.


Speaker Information
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Gorakh Mal, PhD
National Research Centre on Camel
Bikaner, Rajasthan, India

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