Why Are Camels Called Ships of the Desert?

matteo_dudek – Matteo De Sanctis – photos/Moment/Getty Images

Camels are called “ships of the desert” because of their numerous and unique physical traits that enable them survive in harsh desert climates, particularly their ability to consume very little water without dehydrating. There are several species of camels, such as the Arabian camel and Bactrian camel, which vary slightly in physical appearance, but share a suite of characteristics and physical features, such as broad flat feet and a double row of eyelashes, to help them survive in hot and arid deserts.

Camels are native to several deserts in the world, primarily the Sahara Desert in Africa and several deserts in the Middle East. Camels live year-round in desert habitats characterized by long and dry seasons and shorter rainy seasons. To live in their native deserts, camels rely on their physical assets to help cope with extreme physical conditions.

Camels have large, flat feet that are covered by thick, protective pads. These pads, which form the bottom of their feet, are tough and leathery, and help prevent camels’ feet from being burned by desert sands as they walk, and keep them from sinking into the sand, which in turn saves valuable energy. They have natural eye protection in the form of a double row of eyelashes and three eyelids, which help keep sand and dust out of their eyes and shield them from the sun’s rays. Camels can go as much as a week (in hot weather), and sometimes months (in colder temperatures) without water, and it was once even erroneously thought that they could store water in their humps.