Dromedary camels are native to the deserts of the Middle East and North Africa, where they are widely domesticated as a working animal. Dromedary camels are used for a variety of purposes, including transportation, plowing, and meat production. In many countries, dromedary racing is a popular sport. They are also used for its milk, wool, and hides.
They are well adapted to survive in hot and arid conditions, with a thick coat to protect from the sun and sand, and the ability to go for long periods without water. Their single hump, which can reach 20 cm (7.9 in) or more in height, is a store of fat that can be metabolized into water and energy during times of food scarcity. Also, they have wide, tough feet to help them traverse the hot sand and rocks of the desert.
They are well-suited to nomadic herding, and their wide distribution in the Middle East, northern Africa, and the Horn of Africa attests to its importance as a domesticated animal.
Dromedaries form herds of about 20 individuals, led by a dominant male, and feed on foliage and desert vegetation. They have the ability to withstand losing more than 30% of their total water content, making them well-suited to their desert habitat. Mating occurs annually and females bear a single calf after a gestation period of 15 months.
They are known to eat 332 plant species in the Sahara, including Aristida pungens, Acacia tortilis, and Panicum turgidum. In Australia, feral dromedaries prefer Trichodesma zeylanicum and Euphorbia tannensis. In India, they are fed with forage plants such as Vigna aconitifolia, V. mungo, and Cyamopsis tetragonolaba. Dromedaries graze for 8-12 hours and ruminate for the same amount of time, using their lips to grasp food and chewing each bite 40 to 50 times. Their anatomy helps them avoid injury while feeding, such as long eyelashes and lockable nostrils.
The dromedary is primarily found in Africa, with more than 80% of the world's total population located there. It is present in almost every desert area in the northern part of the continent and extends as far south as the Sahel, where the annual rainfall is around 550mm. The Horn of Africa has a large population of dromedaries, with most in Somalia, followed by Sudan, Eritrea, and Ethiopia. In 1984, eastern Africa had the largest population of dromedaries in Africa, with 10 million. Western Africa had 2.14 million and northern Africa had nearly 0.76 million. From 1994 to 2005, the population of dromedaries in Africa increased by 16%.
In Asia, the majority of dromedaries are found in India and Pakistan. India has a dromedary population of less than one million, with most located in the state of Rajasthan. In Pakistan, there were 0.8 million in 2005.
In the Persian Gulf region, the dromedary is classified into various breeds, such as Al-Majahem and Al-Hamrah, based on coat color. The UAE has three prominent breeds: Racing Camel, Al-Arabiat, and Al-Kazmiat.
Australia has a population of feral dromedaries, which were introduced in 1840. The total population was 500,000 in 2005 and almost 99% of them are feral with an annual growth rate of 10%. Most of the camels in Australia are dromedaries, with only a few Bactrian camels. The majority of dromedaries in Australia are found in Western Australia, with smaller populations in the Northern Territory, Western Queensland, and northern South Australia.
The meat of a five-year-old dromedary has a composition of 76% water, 22% protein, 1% fat, and 1% ash. The carcass, weighing between 311-683 lbs, is made up of nearly 57% muscle, 26% bone, and 17% fat. The meat is bright red to dark brown and has the taste and texture of beef. A study of the fatty acid composition of the meat showed 51.5% of the fatty acids were saturated, 29.9% mono-unsaturated, and 18.6% polyunsaturated, with the main fatty acids being palmitic acid (26.0%), oleic acid (18.9%), and linoleic acid (12.1%).
Dromedary slaughter is a more complex process than other livestock because of the size of the animal, and the manual work involved. Male dromedaries are slaughtered more frequently than females. The pre-slaughter handling of the dromedary is crucial in determining the quality of the meat, as mishandling can disfigure the hump. The animal is stunned and then slaughtered in a crouching position with its head in a caudal position. The dressing percentage, which is the percentage of the animal's mass that forms the carcass, is 55-70%, higher than the 45-50% of cattle. Camel meat is often eaten by African camel herders during times of food scarcity or for rituals and is processed into food items like burgers, patties, sausages, and shawarma.
Dromedaries can be slaughtered between the ages of four and ten, and the meat becomes tougher and deteriorates in taste and quality as the animal ages. In Somalian and Djiboutian cultures, dromedary meat is a staple food and is used in many recipes and dishes.
Camel hair and wool are used in the manufacturing of warm clothing items, blankets, tents, and rugs. Camel hair is light, has low thermal conductivity, and is durable. The highest quality hair is obtained from juvenile or wild camels. In India, camels are usually clipped in spring, producing about 1-1.5 kg of hair per clipping. Dromedaries produce about 1 kg of wool per year, while Bactrian camels have an annual yield of 5-12 kg. Dromedary hides are of inferior quality and are less preferred for leather manufacturing.
In conclusion, the dromedary is a versatile and valuable animal that has played an important role in the livelihoods and cultures of people in various regions of the world, particularly in Africa and the Middle East. Its strength and hardiness have made it useful for transportation, trading, and warfare, while its adaptability and docility have made it a popular domestic animal. Although its role is diminishing in some areas with the advent of technology, the dromedary remains an important resource in remote and less-developed regions, and is still used for racing and riding in many countries.
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