Camel Vs Horse: Their Differences, Similarities, and Uses

Are camels smarter than horses? Are camels faster than horses? Are camels related to horses?

Camel vs horse at first seems like a strange topic to compare, but hold on it is actually pretty interesting!

One really cool fact about camels is that they can survive much longer without water than horses. [1]

But how else are they different, and what do they have in common?

I decided to do some research to find out, let’s get started.

Key Takeaways

  • Camels have a longer average life span than horses
  • Horses can run faster than camels
  • Camels have soft padded feet
  • Both camels and horses were domesticated thousands of years ago
  • Horses and camels are herbivores

Horses Vs Camels – Differences

Horses and camels have some pretty major differences, but one thing they do have in common is that they both have a history that goes back thousands of years.

Both also have a long relationship with humans. Horses were first domesticated around 6,000 years ago “in the western part of the Eurasian Steppe, modern-day Ukraine and West Kazakhstan.” [2]

While camels were domesticated somewhere between 3,000 and 6,000 years ago in the Arabian Peninsula. [3]

Despite their similar uses, which I’ll get to shortly, they have many differences, which I’ll dive deeper into now.

Horse Vs Camel Appearance

Horses, unless a pony, stand an average 15.2 hands tall, which is around 5 feet at the wither. Their legs are not as long as a camel’s, and of course, they have no hump.

The hump of the camel is one of the biggest differences between horses and camels. There are two types of camels, the much rarer Bactrian camel, which has two humps, and the Dromedary, which has one. [1]

In comparison to horses, a camel is much taller, with an average shoulder height of 5.5 feet tall.

Horses have wide set eyes with flat foreheads and what can be considered a prettier head than a camel. Of course, camels are pretty cute.

Both have long faces, but the camel is a bit narrower, and their nostrils are closer together. While both the camel and the horse have similar ears, a camel’s ears are a bit shorter.

Another big difference is the neck. Horses have a thick muscular neck while camels have longer, rounder, and more narrow necks.

Horse and Camel Diet

Horses and camels are both herbivores and eat similar plants. However, camels can and will eat tougher or thorny plants that horses will not.

Camels are extremely hardy due to their natural habitat. They can survive a month or even longer without eating and use the fat stored in their hump as food. A camel can even survive a week with no water.

Horses can start to get into serious trouble after only two days without water, which can trigger colic.

One interesting but unattractive habit of camels is ‘spitting,’ which horses don’t do and is one of the best know traits in camels. According to the San Diego Zoo:

“They aren’t actually spitting, though—it’s more like throwing up! They bring up the contents of their stomach, along with saliva, and project it out. This is meant to surprise, distract, or bother whatever the camel feels is threatening it. You can tell if a camel is about to spit: its cheeks fill up and bulge.” [4]

ALSO CHECK: Moose Compared to Horse

Camels vs Horses Lifespan

The average lifespan of a camel is 40 years, which is longer than a horse’s 25 to 30 years. [5] [6] However, there are some rare exceptions of horses living as long as 40 years or more, especially ponies.

What Their Feet Look Like

The feet of camels and horses are very different from each other. Horses have solid hooves, while camels actually have soft padded feet. Each foot has two toes and even toenails!

As a camel walks, its toes spread out, which provides support for its heavy body.

Learn more about the camel’s foot in this interesting video.

Horse Vs Camel Habitat

Camels evolved to survive in the harsh, hot desert environment and waterless environments. This is why they are adapted to survive for many days without food or water.

The more common Dromedary camel comes from the Middle East and North Africa. While they can survive in the unforgiving Sahara Desert, they do not do well in cooler, more humid environments. [5]

Horses are not well adapted to live in the harsh desert climate, like camels. Their natural habitat is cooler with vast prairies of ample grazing, shelter such as trees and valleys, and good access to water sources

How Fast Are Horses and Camels

Horses can run faster than horses, with speeds of around 45 miles per hour, while camels can reach an average speed of 25 miles per hour. However, some speedy camels can reach 40 miles per hour for short distances.

Camel Vs Horse – What Is Their Relationship With People

Both animals have a relationship with the human population that is thousands of years old. Both have been used for food, riding, and transport since their domestication.

Riding and Competing

You are probably familiar with horse racing, but did you know that there are also camel races? Pretty cool!

Many camel races are endurance rides. Horses also take part in endurance rides, as well as jumping, ranch work, in-hand showing, dressage, and trail competitions.

Camel riding in a more casual way is still popular in North African and Middle Eastern regions.

Check out this video about camel racing, you will be surprised to see who the camel riders are!

Food Source

While I personally would never eat horse meat or camel, for that matter, both animals have long been a source of food for people.

While it is not common to drink horse milk, drinking camel milk has been popular since they were domesticated in the Middle East and North Africa.

In fact, camel milk is quite healthy, containing lots of minerals and vitamins, and is low in sugar. It is “the closest natural substance to a human mother’s milk.” [7]

Transportation

Both horses and camels have long been used to transport people and goods. However, camels are capable of carrying heavier loads and over much longer distances than horses.

A horse can carry a heavy load of no more than 20% of its body weight safely, but it can pull much more than it weighs.

Horse and Camel Hair

Horse and camel hair are both used in various products. Camel hair is a popular material to mix with wool to make warm clothes, while horse hair is often found in violin bows, wigs, and brushes.

Which Is Stronger a Camel or a Horse?

When it comes to carrying loads, camels are stronger than horses, especially over long distances. And while big draft horses have amazing physical strength, a camel can still carry heavier loads.

FAQs

Are horses smarter than camels?

While horses and camels are both far more intelligent than many think, a camel is considered the smarter of the two. Both can learn new skills and have excellent memories and cognitive ability.

Can horses and camels live together?

Horses and camels can live together if introduced correctly, but their different dietary and environmental needs can prevent this type of living.

Conclusion

I hope you found the camel vs horse comparison as interesting as I did. It’s pretty cool how much these two animals have in common despite some very big differences.

camel carrying big loads

Do you have any questions? Leave them in the comments. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic.

Resources

1. Camel Fact Sheet | Blog | Nature | PBS [Internet]. Nature. Available from: https://www.pbs.org/wnet/nature/blog/camel-fact-sheet/#:~:text=Camels%20can%20survive%20for%20long

2. Whence the Domestic Horse? [Internet]. www.science.org. Available from: https://www.science.org/content/article/whence-domestic-horse#:~:text=Horses%2C%20the%20scientists%20conclude%2C%20were

3. Burger PA, Ciani E, Faye B. Old World camels in a modern world – a balancing act between conservation and genetic improvement. Animal Genetics [Internet]. 2019;50:598–612. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6899786/

4. Camel | San Diego Zoo Animals & Plants [Internet]. animals.sandiegozoo.org. Available from: https://animals.sandiegozoo.org/animals/camel#:~:text=A%20camel%20can%20go%20a

5. Naumann R. Camelus dromedarius (dromedary) [Internet]. Animal Diversity Web. [cited 2022 Oct 14]. Available from: https://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Camelus_dromedarius/#lifespan_longevity

6. Contributors WE. How Long Do Horses Live [Internet]. WebMD. Available from: https://pets.webmd.com/how-long-do-horses-live#:~:text=The%20average%20horse%20lives%20for

7. Camel Milk: Are There Health Benefits? [Internet]. WebMD. Available from: https://www.webmd.com/diet/health-benefits-camel-milk

Siun L
Siun L

Siun is an all-around animal lover, with a passion for horses. She grew up in the United States, competing in the hunters, equitation, and jumpers. Now living in Ireland, she competes with her own showjumping horses. She is experienced in the care and training of horses, as well as teaching riding lessons. She loves to combine her love for horses with her work. When not working, Siun will be found at the stables, rain or shine.
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