The First camels came from North America about 40 million years ago. Before Ice Age, some migrated to South America and became Ilamas. Others passed through Bering Strait and went to Asia. Those left in North America, however, became extinct eventually.
In Asia, there are two kinds of camels: the Bactrian one which has two humps and the Arabian camel with one hump. The Arabian camel was evolved from the Bactrian one. The Bactrian camel is native to the steppes of Asia. It was first domesticated about 2500 BC. The Bactrian camel can live in cold deserts and mountains.
The Avesta says Ahura Mazda created the camel before even creating the horse. After being created, camel asked God for offsprings right away. The Avesta also mentions the two types of camels and it says camels are among beneficent animals. The ancient Iranians were familiar with Bactrian camels. They used them for transportation, meat and their skin. Camels were so valuable for the ancient Iranians that sometimes they named their children after them. Some believe that Zarathushtra’s name means “owner of yellow camel.”
The ancient Persians used camels in their battles too. King Xerxes took camels in his campaign in Greece in 480 BC. The Greeks were very surprised to see this strange looking animal. This picture (on the right) from Persepolis shows a Bactrian delegate bringing a two-humped camel as a gift to the king.
In today's Iran, camels are important part of life in Baluchistan (an area in the Southeast of Iran) and in the South. However, the number of camels are decreasing in Iran because of neglect and change in environment.
For millions of years, camels were extinct in North America. But in 1855, President Jefferson Davis decided to get some camels from the Middle East and bring them to California to build a Western Wagon route from Texas to California. So a friend of President Jefferson, Major Henry Wayne, went to Syria and bought 33 camels. He also hired a man named Hajji Ali to teach the Americans how to handle the camels. American soldiers couldn’t pronounce Hajji’s name so they nicknamed him Hi Jolly.
The camels took heavy burden, water and supplies, from Texas to California and the expedition seemed successful. However, the camels didn’t like California's rocky roads and some died.
When the Civil War broke out, the camels were auctioned off and ended up in the circus. Some ran into the desert. But they were killed by hunters. Until his death Hi Jolly believed that some camels might have survived in the desert. This picture on the right shows Hi Jolly's tomb in Arizona.Today, some people claim they have seen the ghosts of Hi Jolly's camels in the desert.