A camel is either of the two species of large odd-toed ungulate in the genus Camelus, the Dromedary and the Bactrian Camel. Both are native to the dry and desert areas of Asia and northern Africa. The name camel comes from the Hebrew gamal, "to repay" or "requite", as the camel does the care of its master.
The term camel is also used more broadly, to describe any of the six camel-like creatures in the family Camelidae: the two true camels, and the four South American camelids: Llama, Alpaca, Guanaco and Vicuna. For an overview of the camel family, see camelid. For more information on the two true camels, see Dromedary and Bactrian Camel.
- Family Camelidae
Humans first domesticated camels many thousands of years ago. The Dromedary and the Bactrian Camel are both still used for milk, meat, and as beasts of burden—the Dromedary in northern Africa and western Asia; the Bactrian Camel further to the north and east in central Asia.
Although there are almost 13 million Dromedaries alive today, the species is extinct in the wild: all bar a handful are domesticated animals (mostly in Sudan, Somalia, India and nearby countries). There is, however, a substantial feral population of about 200,000 in central Australia, descended from individuals that escaped from captivity in the late 19th century.
The Bactrian Camel once had an enormous range, but is now reduced to an estimated 1.4 million animals, mostly domesticated. It is thought that there are about 1000 wild Bactrian Camels in the Gobi Desert, and small numbers in Iran, Afghanistan, Turkey and Russia.