What Do Camels Eat? A Complete List of Food For Camels

Our recent post “do camels eat meat?”  Encouraged us to write more about camel’s eating habits in detail. It is often questioned what do camels eat as they live in the desert where finding food is just as hard as searching for water.

A huge number of camels are domesticated, some are living in the wild(though only a few fortunate camels are living in the wild), and zoos.

Their diet is not at all the same, they have been just surviving differently. So, in this article today, we would be discussing what domestic, wild, and camels living in the zoo eat to live a balanced life. 

What do camels eat in general?

Camels do not normally have many options, they eat what they find in the wild even if it’s dried leaves or bushes.

Camels are herbivores, they eat almost everything that requires photosynthesis to live. If you are looking for a more specific answer, twigs, shrubs, trees, cactuses, thorny vegetation, seeds, desert bushes, grains, straw, hay, and date stones, etc. 

Camels hardly get food poisoning as they are not sensitive to the stomach.

They can almost eat every plant, tree, shrub, or grass except Capparis tomentosa(Andela), Prosopis juliflora(datihara), parthenium hysterophorus, Lantana Camara, Asahara, sorghum bicolar(basinga), bracken fern, Medicago burweed, Snowdonia polystachia, Prunus Africana, solanum incanum, crotalaria incana, Plantago lanceolata, amaranthus spp, acacia absynica(goronta), Datura stramonium, hibiscus ludwigii, and maytenus senegalensis, etc. 

Now that you know that camels are herbivores, they eat what all herbivores prefer. It’s time to discuss what domestic and camels in the wild and zoos eat in detail.

Starting with domestic camels as most of the total camel population is living and serving in a domestic environment.

What do domestic camels eat?

It’s important to mention here that not all domestic camels eat the same, their masters choose to treat them differently.

Mostly well-pampered domestic camels survive on wheat, dates, hay, oats, vegetables, fruits, both fresh and dry grasses.

Whereas some unfortunate domestic camels do not get treated well, they have to graze and browse around on poor vegetation, dried leaves, and twigs, etc. 

If they have to graze and browse to fill their stomach they would eat all plants, trees, shrubs, grasses, leaves but not Capparis tomentosa(Andela), Prosopis juliflora(datihara), parthenium hysterophorus, Lantana Camara, Asahara, sorghum bicolar(basinga), bracken fern, Medicago burweed, Snowdonia polystachia, Prunus Africana, solanum incanum, crotalaria incana, Plantago lanceolata, amaranthus spp, acacia absynica(goronta), Datura stramonium, hibiscus ludwigii, and maytenus senegalensis as they can recognize what’s healthy and what’s not. 

What do camels in the wild eat? 

Though there are quite a few camels left in the wild that do not mean that they can go unnoticed. The wild camels are now only found in Australia, India, Kazakhstan, and the Gobi Desert of Mongolia, China. (Source)

These camels eat what they manage to find in the wild mainly dried leaves, grasses, desert bushes, twigs, cactuses, and plants that are rich in sodium.

The domestic and camels in the wild eat more or less the same, the only difference is that they don’t get fruits, vegetables, wheat, and oats treats.

Moreover, despite being able to handle cactus in the mouth, most of the domestic camels have never tried eating cactuses. 

camel-and-cactus

What do camels in the zoo eat? 

As we all know camels in the zoo have a “totally” different lifestyle than the domestic and wild camels.

They normally do not have the access to regular camel food that are twigs, dried leaves, plants, bushes, and grasses so the managers try to provide pellet feed and hay every day.

One camel in the zoo eats about 13 to 17 ½ pelleted feed and hay every day.

As they do not have access to sodium-rich plants as well, so the managers try to fulfill the sodium needs by providing salt blocks.

The camels in the zoo also eat fruits and vegetables occasionally.

Moreover, the exceptionally weak camels get to eat vitamins and minerals supplements as well(probably because the food they are surviving on is sometimes just not enough). 

What’s their favorite food? 

Camels, whether they are domestic, wild, or a part of the zoo, prefer grass, grains, wheat, and oats over the regular camel food; bushes, leaves, trees, and twigs, etc.

Unfortunately, the wild camels hardly get to eat any of the above-mentioned favorite food items but the domestic and the camels in the zoo receive their favorite food quite often. 

What do camels eat when the food is scarce? 

As this giant creature survives the hardest environment, there comes a time when they have to utilize the stored fats and search for food for days.

Camels, when they have no stored fats left, eat whatever they find even if it’s meat.

When the food scarce camels are seen eating bones, fishes, and carrions. So, in such cases, camels would eat meat but not poisonous plants. 

camels-eating

What do camels choose when plenty of food options are available? 

Camels are not picky eaters at all; they would eat whatever they want on their way. If there are plenty of food options, they would eat what’s easier to access.

However, if they are made to choose between dry grass, leaves, and wheat and oats, they would prefer eating wheat and oats. 

What do camels eat in the desert? 

Camels that live in the desert are forced to live on dry leaves, bushes, trees, twigs, cactuses.

They sometimes have to go without food for days especially when they are traveling.

Aristida plumosa, spiny plants, and panicum turgidum are the favorite foods of the camels living in the desert.

They also get wheat and oats as a treat sometimes, but it’s quite rare.

The people and the camels in the desert are used to the rough and tough lifestyle, so the camels do not get pampered by their keepers. 

What do camels eat in fertile inhabited lands? 

The camels living in fertile inhabited lands are much fortunate than their fellas in the desert.

They hardly go a day without food even when they are traveling.

Camels in such areas do not necessarily have to eat dried grasses, leaves, and bushes, they graze and browse fresh grasses, trees, and leaves.

They get to eat fruits, vegetables, wheat, oats, and hay quite often. 

What do camels like to eat as a treat? 

Besides, wheat and oats camels appreciate receiving Bermuda hay, alfalfa pellets, carrots, and apples as a treat.

Bermuda hay, alfalfa pellets, carrots, and apples are a balanced treat whereas wheat and oats can not be digested in huge quantities (because they are too nutritious for a body that is used to living on low nutritional foods). (Source)

Facts that you probably do not know about camel feeding

Camels are hardy in all senses

Camels and desert is a match made in heaven as only a true hardy animal can survive such harsh living conditions.

They can tolerate the sand, heat, and go without food and water for months and weeks. So, it would not be wrong to say that this giant creature is hardy in all senses.

Camels can digest any desert plant except for a few

Camels do not necessarily look for specific plants, they devour whatever they find on their way except for a few poisonous plants; Datura, Texas Mountain Laurel, Sliverleaf Nightshade, Tree Tobacco.

Like all wild animals, they can quickly change their dietary habits

As camels are just now domesticated they were living their life in the wild. Like all wild animals, camels can quickly adopt new dietary habits whenever the food is scarce.

As camels are herbivores, but when is food is scarce, rather than starving, they start eating whatever they find even if it’s meat.

Thorny, bitter, and toxic plants are super beneficial for this giant creature

Some thorny, bitter, and toxic plants that are deadly for domestic and some wild animals are surprisingly beneficial for camels. Cactus may tear any animal’s mouth apart but camels can eat without getting the slightest injury.

Camels eat meat only to sustain themselves 

Camels try to stick to their regular diet(that is leaves, shrubs, twigs, and grasses) as long as it’s available.

They eat meat only when the food is not available, just to sustain themselves in such harsh conditions.

Let alone meat and thorny cactus, camels can eat anything

It might surprise you, camels can eat anything to survive. Some camels have been reported to eat leather tents in order to survive the harsh living conditions. So, a camel eating meat and thorny cactus is just not surprising at all. (Source)

Camels can astonish you to the degree that you would require some time to bounce back to your normal state.

YouTube video

Camels can graze and browse constantly throughout the day

Camels, whenever, they find food in abundance, they keep on grazing and browsing throughout the day to store enough fats for a rainy day. They either eat and drink all day or travel without eating or drinking for eight to twelve hours straight.

Camels are not picky eaters and they can not afford to be

Camels are not picky eaters and they can not afford to be as the desert has nothing much to offer. So, the camels eat whatever the desert is offering except the few poisonous plants. They even eat saltbushes and other such plants that no other domestic and wild animals like to graze on. 

Camels store food in their humps, not water

Still, even though the camel mystery is resolved, a lot of animal enthusiasts think camels store water in their humps. As a matter of fact, they store food in their humps in the form of fats and water in their bloodstream.

Domestic camels prefer eating in the broad daylight

The least known fact about domestic camels is that they generally avoid grazing or browsing in the evening or night, they prefer eating in the broad daylight. They would eat to their fullest in the broad daylight and rest in the evening. Whereas the wild camels do exactly the opposite, they sleep during the day and search for food at the night.

Bonus Tip

As we have discussed food enough, it would not be fair to neglect another necessity “water”. As how much does a camel drink in a day and how long can a camel go without water is still a mystery to a lot of us. Well, let us first inform you that you are lucky as your doubts are going to be cleared. 

Camels can go without water for weeks it’s because they drink in huge quantities and store it in their bloodstream.

The oval-shaped cells in the camel’s body allow them to drink a huge amount of water. An exceptionally thirsty camel can drink around 200 liters( 53 gallons in easy words) in a matter of minutes. 

As far as the question of how long a camel can go without water is concerned, a healthy camel can survive two weeks or fifteen days without even drinking a drop of water. If the weather is not that hot, they may go a few days more without water. They typically last more without food but it’s hard to go without water in the scorching heat.

Camels search for water more than the food as they can not store enough water in their bloodstream. They try to drink as much as possible whenever and wherever they find. A lot of us think that camels like swimming when in reality, they just go in seawater to drink and store enough water.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do camels eat meat?

Camels are herbivores; they eat dried leaves, shrubs, bushes, twigs, etc generally. However, if they can not find any such thing to eat, they would not mind eating meat. The appropriate answer to this question would be, camels do eat meat only when the food is scarce and they are starving. 

Do camels in the zoo get to eat the same food that domestic camels consume? 

No, they may get the same food but it’s quite rare. Camels in the zoo are already living in a not-so-camel friendly environment, so they are pampered with high-quality expensive pellet feed, Bermuda hay, fruits and vegetable treats. 

Can camels eat carrots? 

Yes, camels can eat carrots. In fact, the domestic camels eat carrots and apples as a treat quite often. There is no harm in offering carrots occasionally. 

What fruits and vegetables camels eat? 

Camels are not that sensitive to stomachs, they can eat a variety of fruits and vegetables. According to Study Mostly the domestic camels are seen eating carrots, apples, red beets, and mangolds. 

What foods do camels eat? 

Camels are the least pampered domestic animals, they usually eat dried grasses, twigs, bushes, plants, and trees. Besides that, they also eat fruits and vegetables occasionally. 

Can camels eat oranges? 

No, camels generally do not eat oranges as this giant creature is herbivores, they prefer eating grasses, plants, bushes, and shrubs. The only fruits and vegetables they eat occasionally are apples, carrots, red beets, and mangolds. 

Do camels eat a lot? 

They can graze/browse and eat almost all day as camels store food in their humps so, yes! They do eat a lot whenever they find something to eat. 

How much food camels can eat in a day? 

How much food camel can consume in a day the answer to this question depends on what kind of food is being offered. If it’s dry, they can eat 8 to 12 kgs but if it’s fresh 10 to 20 kgs in a day. 

What is a camel diet? 

Like all herbivores, they eat grasses, leaves, twigs, and plants. The only difference is that they are just not as lucky as the rest of the herbivores, they have to survive on dry grasses, leaves, and bushes. 

How long can a camel go without food? 

Camels store food in their humps, they keep on utilizing the stored fats when the food is scarce. They can last about six to seven months without food and a week or so without water.Read more about How Long Can a Camel Go Without Water?

Summary

What do camels eat? The appropriate answer to this question is, camels are herbivores they eat dried grasses, leaves, twigs, bushes, and desert plants. As we have started treating our domestic animals differently so the camels often get to eat fruits and vegetables as well.

The domestic camels eat wheat, oats, hay, and all the regular camel food, wild camels survive on dried grasses, plants, bushes, twigs, and thorny plants they find in the desert whereas the camels that are forced to live in the zoo eat pellets, Bermuda hay, fruits, vegetables, and vitamins and minerals supplements to live a healthy balanced life. The camels when they have nothing favorable to eat, do not mind eating meat.

They prefer eating fish, bones, and carrions. Wheat, alfalfa pellets, and oats are their favorite food but they can not eat them regularly as the said food items are just too nutritional for camels.

Lastly, I hope I have answered all your questions. It would be an honour if this article helps you in any way.

Sources

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  • Hi, I am Talon Juper, a passionate farmer, and Livestock Expert. I have done my graduation in Agriculture and Animal breeding. Relevant to Farm Desire as a research writer and data recorder.

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