The Bactrian camel (Camelus bactrianus), is a large even-toed ungulate native to the steppes of eastern Asia. The Bactrian camel has two humps on its back, in contrast to the Dromedary, also known as the Arabian camel, which has one. For a memory aid the B of Bactrian can be imagined as a graphic of two humps and the D of Dromedary can be imagined as a graphic of one hump.
Nearly all of the estimated 1.4 million Bactrian Camels alive today are domesticated, but in October 2002 the estimated 950 remaining in the wild in northwest China and Mongolia were placed on the critically endangered species list. The Dromedary is the only other surviving camel, native to the Sahara desert, but today is extinct in the wild. By comparison, the Bactrian camel is a stockier, hardier animal able to survive the scorching desert heat of northern Iran to the frozen winters in Tibet.
Bactrian Camels are over 7 feet tall at the hump and weigh in excess of 1,600 pounds. They are herbivores, eating grass, leaves, and grains, capable of drinking up to 32 gallons of water at a time. In the wilds of Mongolia, this is usually in the form of ice or snow eaten in small but frequent amounts. Their mouths are extremely tough, allowing them to eat thorny desert plants.
They are supremely adapted to protect themselves against the desert heat and sand, with wide, padded feet and thick leathery pads on the knees and chest, nostrils that can open and close, ears lined with protective hairs, and bushy eyebrows with two rows of long eyelashes. Thick fur and underwool keep the animal warm during cold desert nights and also insulate against daytime heat.