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do camels eat cactus

do camels eat cactus

do camels eat cactus

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How does a camel eat cactus?

Arabian Camels Eat Cacti With Hardened Mouth Structures.
Hardened structures, called papillae, line the mouths of camels and other animals—including humans—to help them eat tough foods. …
do camels eat cactus
do camels eat cactus

Camels are often called the “ships of the desert.”


Their bodies are built for harsh desert conditions, from their cloven hooves and extra-long eyelashes to their cactus-chewing mouths.

The video above shows two domesticated dromedary camels—named Baby and Nessie—gnawing on a prickly pear cactus near Tucson, Arizona.


(Related: read about the dromedary’s two-humped relative.)

As you might be able to imagine, the six-inch needles on the cactus make the plant difficult to chew.

A Mouthful of Papillae

Camels have a hard palate at the tops of their mouths, says Alex Warnock, the Arizonian who owns the camels in the video.

Their teeth grind food against this palate.

“It kind of works as a mortar and pestle,” Warnock says.

The camel’s rotating chew distributes pressure from the cactus and the papillae slide the needles vertically down the throat. This way, the sharp ends don’t poke the camel as it ingests them.

do camels eat cactus
do camels eat cactus


According to Luis Padilla, director of animal health at the Saint Louis Zoo, the structures can almost feel like plastic.

Healthy papillae protect the cheek and mouth from scratches and injuries, and blunt or ulcerated papillae can be an indication of a disease.


Other Desert Adaptations

The strange protrusions in a camel’s mouth are not the only traits they’ve adapted to help them live in the desert.

A thin nictitating membrane covers their eyes to protect against sandstorms, and bushy eyebrows and a double row of extra-long lashes help to keep sand out.



How are camels capable of eating a cactus?

Most cacti seemed to cause them pain and they would try to avoid the spines to get to the (apparently) tasty innards.


It is likely that these prehensile upper lips are very sensitive as the only way a camel can manipulate them is by using its sense of touch.

That clearly bothered them and caused pain.

I’d have to use a comb to remove the segments (the cholla have extremely sharp barbed spines) or they’d be stuck to their face for a long time.

Can Camels Eat Cactus?

Everyone knows a few things about camels;

they live in the desert,

they store fat in their humps, and they can go weeks without food or water.

Does camel eat meat?

Diet. Camels aren’t picky about what they eat. Their thick lips allow them to eat things that most other animals couldn’t, such as thorny plants. Camels are herbivores, though, so you won’t find them eating meat

And seeing as there aren’t many culinary options in the desert, it makes sense that everyone’s favorite desert herbivore would snack on the most recognizable of desert vegetation.

Camels can indeed eat cacti.

After all, the cacti’s ability to withstand blistering temperatures and survive long periods without water makes it the perfect meal for camels.

Camels mouths are lined with papillae and nodules that make eating thorny cacti possible but not pain-free.

do camels eat cactus
do camels eat cactus

Camels eat cacti because they have special mouths that can cater to the cactus without causing internal damage.

The animal is a ruminant with special digestive capabilities that make the task a whole lot easier.

they have adapted to eat cacti.

Camels are able to eat cacti without much ado.

This behavior can stump you and make you wonder how can any animal ever eat such a potentially harmful plant.

do camels eat cactus
do camels eat cactus

It seems like a mystery how camels are even able to attempt to eat these unwelcoming succulents.

You might wonder whether they cause the animal any harm.

Well, I’ve done the research, and it’s fascinating, to say the least.

The camels have a multi-chambered stomach which is full of billions of bacteria that help in digestion.


Did you know other animals also eat cacti?

Peccaries eat cacti due to their high-water content,

and in some countries experiencing drought, farmers mix cacti into their cattle feed.

I’m sure you didn’t know that livestock could also be feasting on cacti.

However, that is the case.

If there isn’t anything else to provide to animals, cacti can do the job.

why do camels eat cactus

Why do camels eat cacti in the desert?


they have adapted to eating anything they can find to survive.

This includes spiny cacti.

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How do camels eat cactus Reddit?

They have hardened papillae covering the insides of their mouth.


they angle it in a way that the thorns go down vertically.

Does camel eat meat?


Camels aren’t picky about what they eat.

The papillae lining along with the palate are the best options that help you chew it better.

The papillae have been made from keratin and protect the mouth of the camel against the onslaught of the cactus and its thorns.

The strong jaw and teeth help the camel grind the cactus effectively against the palate of their mouth.

One of the best adaptations that camel opts for would be through its unique grinding and chewing pattern.

The rotating chewing habit helps the camel push the cactus vertically down the throat.

Does it Hurt Camels to Eat Cactus?

but do tolerate it for the sake of nutrition.

The habit of rotating the cactus when eating it makes it go down

the camel’s throat vertically rather than horizontally.

While camel can eat cacti carefully, there are times when you will find it hurting them sometimes.

The thorns can poke the region around the mouth and lips.

Why Do Camels Eat Cactus in the Desert?

The obvious reason why camels eat cactus in deserts is the lack or scarcity of food in the desert.

The harsh environment in the desert makes the cactus fruits and twigs one of the prime options for eating and maintaining nutrition in the body. 

They have developed the habit of

do camels eat cactus
do camels eat cactus

How do camels survive in deserts?

Camels are well suited to their desert habitats, with numerous clever adaptations that help them to tolerate extreme hot and cold environments.

Camels are part of a group known as camelids.

This makes them close relatives of llamas, alpacas, guanacos and vicuñas, which are all native to South America.

There are three species of camels living today and most are domesticated.

Domestic and wild Bactrian camels have two humps.

Why do camels have humps?

Camels’ humps are often associated with these animals’ ability to go for long periods without taking a drink.

To last for prolonged periods in dry areas, camels have also adapted to minimise the amount of water they lose.


A camel can also use its nose as a dehumidifier.

When we breathe, the air we exhale is at body temperature and we lose water in it as vapour.

This saves them from losing water with each breath.


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