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Saturday, December 31, 2011

Camels, an undervalued castaway

Camel ( Catalan camell, French chameau ), both from Latin camēlus, from Ancient Greek κάμηλος (kamēlos), from Proto-Semitic *gamal-; compare Arabic جمل (jamal) and Hebrew גמל (gamal).

A starting point can be the maxim: "a camel is a horse designed by committee." 

which has been attributed to three sources (wikipedia:  Vogue magazine, July 1958, to Sir Alec Issigonis and also to professor Lester Hunt)

The story goes further on the wrong side with the image of the Camel on the 

A children favourite has been How the Camel Got His Hump by Rudyard Kipling. Collected in Just So Stories, 1902, illustrated by the author, and introduced by: "Now this is the second tale, and it tells how the camel got his big hump.

Penjat per el 10/12/2010
When the animals began to work for Ma

My favourite, the Mongolian fable, where the camel lost the contest with the mouse:

A long, long time ago, the Great Borhan Khan invited all the animals to apply for the great honor of having a year named after themselves for their new calendar. 
"Hey Elder Brother Camel! Did you hear?" cried the mouse as he scurried up the tall legs and perched on the rearmost hump of his Bactrian friend.  "There is to be a new calendar, one which will repeat every twelve years. And each year will have as its totem one of us animals! What do you say Elder Brother Camel? Shall we put ourselves forth as representatives of our families?"

Based on a traditional Mongolian folktale from George Lane's Daily Life in Mongolia. A brief online version of the tale can be found here. Also, the open spaces of Mongolia can be read in the superb novel The naked name of love (by Sanjida O'Connel)

But in another version, Buddha felt sorry for the camel. If you look carefully at the camel, you will see that the Buddha has kept His word, because the camel has:

  • the ears of the Mouse
  • the stomach of the Cow
  • the paws of the Tiger
  • the nose of the Hare
  • the body of the Dragon
  • the eyes of the Snake
  • the mane of the Horse
  • the wool of the Sheep
  • the hump of the Ape
  • the head-crest of the Rooster
  • the crooked back-legs of the Dog
  • and the tail of the Pig.

As early as 1800 BC, trade routes from Asia and Africa crossed the Arabian Peninsula carrying spices, incense, gold, ivory, and silk on their way to Europe and the lands of the Fertile Crescent. Camels were used by the Nabateans in the first century BC, on their way from the Gulf of Aqaba to the trading capital of Petra in central Jordan. Camels were used by the Bedouin, whose warriors formed the nucleus of the Muslim armies that conquered the Byzantine and Persian Empires in the 7th century AD. War, trade, and civilization -- all riding on the back of a hump.

Try to answer these questions:
Question #1: The camel has played such an important role in Arab culture there are how many words for it in the Arab language?
Question #2: You can easily identify a dromedary camel if you remember that their single hump forms the letter "D" on its side. Can you remember what the two hump camel is called?
Question #3: The camel's eye is protected from sand by two rows of extra long eyelashes, one on the upper eyelid, and one on the lower eyelid. In addition to this, each eye also has a very thin third eyelid that moves in which direction?
Question #4: Although camels will normally select the freshest vegetation available, when food is scarce they will eat anything-- salty plants, dried plants, bones, fish, meat, leather, and even on occasion their owner's tent. What is the scientific term for an animal that will eat anything?

Question #5: In the wintertime, camels can gather enough moisture from the plants they eat to go as much as 50 days without water. In the summertime, how many days can a camel go without water?

Question #6: Camels are capable of losing safely how much of their body's weight in water?
Question #7: The term hydrophilicity, which describes the hemoglobins in a camel's red blood cells, means what?
Question #8: Camels are capable of drinking how many gallons / liters of water in 10 minutes?
Question #9: A camel keeps as cool as it can by resting when the weather is extremely hot. It will lay down in a shady place, if it can find one. What will a camel do if it cannot find a shady place to rest on a hot day?
Question #10: Although chicken is the most widely consumed domestic meat in Saudi Arabia today, camel meat could be the meat of the future, especially in health-conscious Western countries. Why is this?
The Camelidae family includes:
Genus Camelus:
Camelus dromedarius (dromedary, one-hump camel)
Camelus bactrianus (Bactrian camel, two-hump camel)
Genus Lama:
Lama glama (llama)
Lama guanicoe (guanaco)
Lama pacos (alpaca)
Genus Vicugna:
Vicugna vicugna (vicugna)

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