In 2006 I undertook a research project out in Dubai, UAE with Professor Alan, Dr Thilo Pfau, Dr Rachel Payne, Dr Kevin Parsons and a fellow NZ physio student researcher Sarah Cruickshank. The project came up in conjunction with the Royal Veterinary College, London as part of my MSc Veterinary Physiotherapy degree and given my penchant for anatomy I decided to take the plunge.  The sport of dromedary racing has increased considerably in recent years particularly in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).  Selection and subsequent breeding from elite racing dromedaries parallels the modern thoroughbred racing industry in terms of popularity and financial investment.  To date there is no quantitative data linking locomotor anatomy and function in the dromedary, somewhat surprising considering its  athletic capabilities in relation to speed and endurance.  The study provided a unique opportunity to quantify muscle-tendon architecture and moment arms  of the thoracic and pelvic limbs in one of nature’s endurance athletes – Camelus dromedarius.  Measurement and subsequent quantification of these parameters facilitates greater understanding of cursorial locomotor anatomy enabling construction of realistic musculoskeletal models.

We collected data from 5  dromedary cadavers spending hours in a cold post-mortem  lab that was our ‘office’ for two weeks, predominantly covered in bits of muscle tissue and sinew!! The experience was bizarre to say the least, in parts worthy of an after dinner speech, and something I will never forget. It has since lead to my fascination, respect and  ongoing love affair with camels, in particular the dromedary.  Consequently when Sophie Gent asked if I wanted to become involved in a new camel project I jumped at the chance.

Fast forward to July 2019 where Sophie, Dr Liat Wicks and myself visited Joseph, Rebecca and their daughter Daisy at their home in Warwickshire, home of ‘Josephs Amazing Camels ( To my delight we were presented with an array of dromedary and bactrian camels for scanning including a rare Pintardo dromedary cow with blue eyes!

CamelsI have found from previous experience that anything camel related is usually not without a story or some sort of excitement, once again they did not disappoint. In this instance we were treated to the spectacle of the demonstrating the art of ‘dromedary lunging’, a performance worthy of an Oscar. One of the camel’s had escaped, at high speed, back to the paddock and Sophie was left with no option but to try and impede the attempted escape of a second dromedary as she was left holding his lead rope.  Not wanting to loose face on the Company’s behalf she managed to hold onto the rapidly circling camel despite his thwarted attempts at joining his friend. In Dr Liat’s words ‘I would pay good money to see Sophie do that again’ and to be honest I was inclined to agree! Dramas aside we were able to collect some meaningful data from a variety of different camels, some with interesting clinical histories. This data is currently with one of our interpretation vets Dr Roderigo Fagundes and we should have the first thermographic quantitative data set very soon, watch this space …….

Finally my report would not be complete without providing you all with a few interesting camel facts, just in case any of you get that all important tie breaker in the local pub quiz! Enjoy.

  • As a species camels have a huge socio-economic impact in Third World Economies. They are used for milk production, meat, transport and racing.  It has been reported that there is a herd of 5 million milking camels out in Somalia alone!
  • There are approximately 18.5 million camels in the World, Africa having the greatest population of circa 13.62 million, Asia 4.76 million and Australia accounting for 0.2 million.
  • There are different types of camels classified as Old World and New World. Old World camels belong to the genus camelus and can be further sub-divided into dromedaries (one hump ) – typically found in Arabia and Africa, or bactrians (two humps) – typically found in China and Mongolia. New World camels belong to the genus camelidae and include llamas. Alpacas, vicunas and guanacos all of which are humpless.
  • Racing dromedaries may reach speeds of up to 45km/hour. They have three distinct gaits namely walk, pace and gallop. The pace is their gait of choice at speed as it is the most energetically efficient. However what it makes up in terms of energetic efficiency it lacks in locomotor stability which is typically why the animal runs in straight lines and doesn’t circle/corner well!  The pacing gait is characterised by ipsilateral pairs of limbs being advanced simultaneously (see adjacent photo).
  • Dromedaries typically range from 350-480kg depending on sex and exhibit a variety of coat colours namely white, beige red, black and pied (with blue eyes).
  • All camels regardless of type are born humpless. Contrary to popular belief the hump contains fat not water that came be mobilised as an energy supply if food is scarce.
  • Camels possess a serious of leathery, keritinized pads located on their carpi, stifles, tarsi and a singular large sternal pad called a pedestal (see photo). The latter protrudes 7-8cm below chest.  These pads are designed to keep the animal off the stony floor when it positions itself in sternal recumbency and rests for long periods at a time, conserving energy in the heat of the day.


H.R.Mathie, S.Cruickshank, A.M.Wilson, T.Pfau, K.Parsons, R.C.Payne (2019) – Structural and functional anatomy of the locomotor system in the dromedary (Camelus dromedarius): Part II: The pelvic limb (In Press)B.Khan, A.Iqbal, M.Riaz (2003) Production & Management of Camels – – PART 1 – Department of Livestock Management, University of Faisalabad