Selection of Riding / Racing Camels

Among camel men there is a long established tradition of riding camels. General breeds or types of camel have been developed specifically for this use. The most famous riding camels found near Kenya are the Beja camels and the Anafi camels of Sudan but now in Kenya others are evolving. The riding camels of Arabia, Egypt and the Sahara are known as the Dilool, the Hageen and the Mehara respectively (Leese,1927). Within this broad classification many local riding types are found. The description of a typical riding camel is based on these breeds.

The Anafi camel, is also said to be a good riding animal, although not of outstanding quality since it is bred for speed rather than for stamina. It is less robust than the Bishari, but fast and smooth, having no rival for distances of up to 40km. As to the qualities expected of the ideal riding camel, there is some agreement that the Beja types of the Sudan come nearest to the ideal. The best description of Sudanese riding camels are given by Gillespie (1962) and Epstein (1971). They refer to the Beja camels of the Bishar, used by the Amarar, Hodendowa, Benir Amir and Habaab tribes of the Red Sea coast and Eritrean hills, and also to the Anafi or Shukria camel found east of the River Nile in Sudan.

Camel Types

There are three basic types available in East Africa
The first is the big boned? heavily built muscular animal known as a 'Somali', more of a load carrier than a racer Big, slow, consumes a lot of food. used to flat sandy areas Thick neck, broad chest slightly slab sided long legs large boned not a good milk producer Animals are usually up to 550kgs weight Such normally have a hard time when negotiating hilly or rocky country, preferring to walk on flat surfaces However among these can be found a 'Runt' rejected for milk or meat purposes it will often by virtue of its light weight and size, be eminently suitable as racing material, Some good racers have developed here.

Second is the medium sized animal, referred to as a Rendille or Boran which is preferred for racing. Intermediate in size between Somali and Turkana. Hardier than Somali Weight 350-450kgs Good milkers, good racers Have tougher pads on their feet Most local racing animals have been trained from this category.

Third is the small, stocky, wirey Turkana This has good characteristics for racing because of its slender shape, small feet and agility Small, wirey, used to hilly country and rocks Have well sprung ribs, small humps, good load canters Weight 300-375kgs More agile but give less milk Good racers Do not have problems in hilly country, as they have tough feet but are known to be temperamental animals This category is still under test.

FEET - Need to be small enough to allow the camel to be agile and light \ of step, yet large enough to support its weight, at faster paces. Front feet ar\ e expected to be fairly straight while the rear feet should be slightly turned \ out. Tough, horny soles showing even wear are considered ideal camels from hill\ y terrain being often recognized by the hypertrophy of the soles and the uneven\ wear of their nails, such protect them from rocks or hot sand.

FRONT LEGS - Must be fairly close together, long and straight, elbows sh\ ould be away from the chest pad and should be well - muscled.

REAR LEGS - straight and long, with no tendency for Cycle hock" or bow l\ egs. The loins should be well - muscled.

The animal's thighs should be broad, thick and full, such that when viewed from\ the back the animal should not appear too 'split-up'. The second thighs should\ be broad and muscular. Muscular forearms and strong, heavy knee joints, combin\ ed with moderately straight, closely set hocks are considered the ideal. The ca\ nnon bone should be clean and flat. The riding camel should be slender and long\ -legged, with a strong but not coarse bone structure.

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