Bactrian camel

Latin Name
Camelus bactrianus




An imposing animal, the Bactrian camel can reach seven feet in height and weigh up to 1,500 pounds. The species' thick, brown coat changes with the seasons. During winter, it thickens to provide added insulation against the cold while large chunks of fur are shed in the summer to keep the animal cool. Both male and female Bactrian camels have two large humps on their backs.



The Bactrian camel is native to China and Mongolia. The animal has been domesticated, however, and can be found throughout Asia.


The Bactrian camel is critically endangered due to habitat loss. The species is faced with increasing competition from domestic livestock, particularly for water.


Dry grasslands and deserts make up the species' primary natural habitat.


This grazing mammal favors grasses, leaves and shrubs, but it can also stomach thorns and dry vegetation that other herbivores cannot digest. This enables them to survive in areas of sparse vegetation.

Life History

In the wild, Bactrian camels inhabit herds of 3-30 members led by a single breeding male. Males that are unable to find mates often gather in single-sex bachelor herds. Juvenile Bactrian camels mature around five years of age, and individuals can live up to 50 years.

Special Adaptations
  • Contrary to popular belief, a camel's hump doesn't hold water. Instead, the hump serves as a reservoir for energy-rich fat, which the camel can metabolize for energy when food is scarce.
  • Because of its efficient metabolism, Bactrian camels can go for months without drinking water. When they do drink, they can consume 30 gallons of water at one sitting!
  • Long eyelashes, ears lined with hair and nostrils that can be pinched shut all help shield the Bactrian camel from the blowing sand of its dry environment.

Bonus Content

Chilling Out on Hump Day
The cold weather one Wednesday morning in December doesn’t faze the Bactrian camels at the zoo’s Antelope & Zebra Area. Winter temperatures can drop to 20 degrees below Fahrenheit in the rocky dessert terrain of this endangered species’ native Central Asia! See for yourself in this video of the herd munching fresh-fallen snow in its outdoor yard. Then lend your support to their care with the purchase of a special holiday ADOPT gift package!

Floral and Hardy
Here's one to help you get through hump day: a video of the zoo's Bactrian camel herd feasting on flowering plants. The fragrant treats were given to the Antelope & Zebra Area residents—now shedding their winter coats—as special enrichment on Mother's Day this past weekend.

The Bactrian camels at the Antelope & Zebra Area grow thick coats in winter...and naturally shed them again in spring.

Field Note: Bactrian Camel
Bactrian camels are naturally adapted to the frigid winters of the Gobi Desert...and Chicago's too. Learn about the social dynamics—and shedding habits—of this hairy herd.

A Bactrian camel enjoys some flowery enrichment.

Flowery Fun for Mother's Day
Happy Mother’s Day! Flowers make a great gift for mom, but they’re also a tasty treat for Bactrian camels, red-footed tortoises and prehensile-tailed skinks.

ARKive Media

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Lincoln Park Zoo Exhibit