The Wild Camels of Arizona

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Wild camels once roamed the deserts of Arizona and the Southwest!  Did you know this?  I had read a fascinating article by Clay Thompson in the AZ Republic last week about the importance of the Camel and how the Civil War is probably the reason why there aren’t wild camels and domesticated camels in wide spread use today in the United States.

CamelApparently back in 1855 Jefferson Davis pitched an idea to bring dromedary camels to the United States and there was even a Camel Military Corps established for this.  33 Camels were originally transported to the United States and they began to fascinate the U.S. with their unique characteristics.

For one, Camels can travel far longer and carry heavier loads than horses could.  Camels could forage from the weeds and desert plants without needing to eat the high quality grains that people had to feed horses.  Camels could also cross rivers and streams that would frighten or drown horses.

Lt. Edward Beale during a camel expedition even wrote the president the value of the camel and the U.S. sent for 1,000 camels from the middle east.  Unfortunately the Civil War erupted and effort to establish and put Camels into widespread use fell by the wayside, many of the camels were turned loose for one reason or another and at first they started thriving as wild camels in Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and the other Southwest regions.  Humans eventually started killing them off however, and the last wild camel in Arizona was shot in 1893 by a farmer who found it grazing on his garden.

So, though camels were not a native species to the Arizona desert because of the habitat similarity to Africa they would have thrived and fit into society very well hear had they been given a chance.

-Justin Germino


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Updated: March 7, 2011 — 8:00 am