Appears in
Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

  • About

camel either of two large ruminant mammals of the genus Camelus. The one-humped Arabian camel, C. dromedarius, is also known as the dromedary. C. bactrianus is the two-humped Bactrian or Asian camel. Both provide milk. Camel’s milk, a staple food for desert nomads, contains more fat and slightly more protein than cow’s milk. Stobart (1980) remarks that it ‘has very small fat globules and cannot readily be churned to make butter’. It can be made into a kind of yoghurt.

However, the principal use of camels is for carrying goods and people in desert regions of Africa and Asia. As the chief beasts of burden in these areas, they are too valuable to be slaughtered for food, but in the past, when there were probably many more camels than there are now, they were valued for their meat. This is still eaten in some regions. When camels were domesticated it seems that the development of their ‘local fat accumulations’, i.e. their humps, increased; and it is generally considered that the best part of the camel for eating is the hump.