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Camel vs. Horse: Which is faster, stronger, and more…

Last updated: January 16, 2023

By: Miles HenryFact Checked

Recently, my grandson asked me about the difference between a horse and a camel. He was curious about their sizes and which one would win if they raced. I couldn’t help him much at the time. But we did some research and learned a lot of interesting things about horses and camels.

Camels are much larger than horses; on average, they stand around six and a half feet at their hump and weigh roughly 1,500 lbs. In contrast, the average horse is about 5 feet tall and weighs 900 lbs. However, horses are faster than camels over short distances but require more care and feeding.

This blog post explores how these camels and horses compare in speed, strength, stamina, and many other things. So if you’re interested in learning about the differences and similarities between camels and horses, you’ve come to the right place.

Picture of a camel running.
Picture of a horse running

Are camels faster than horses? 

Any discussion of speed must consider that horses and camels cover different types of terrain. On flat ground, a horse is undoubtedly faster than a camel. A camel’s long legs give it an advantage in desert conditions, but a horse has the edge in a race across an open field.

However, it’s worth noting that horses are not built for sustained speed; they tend to tire quickly when running at full gallop. On the other hand, Camels can maintain a steady pace for hours at a time.

So if the question is who can travel faster over desert sand for long distances, the answer is almost certainly camel. In a sprint, horses are faster. I looked at how far a horse can travel in a day compared to a camel, and horses clearly outdistance camels.

Which is stronger, a horse or a camel?

Camels are often said to be “the ships of the desert,” and it’s easy to see why. These curious creatures are well-adapted to life in harsh, arid environments and have several unique features that allow them to thrive in these conditions.

One of the most notable ways camels differ from horses is their physical strength. Camels are significantly larger than horses, and they are also able to carry far greater weights. In fact, a fully grown camel can comfortably carry 40 percent of its body weight – an impressive feat indeed. In contrast horse’s carry capacity is 20 percent of its weight.

Is a camel smarter than a horse?

Regarding IQ (intellectual quotient), horses don’t stand much chance compared to camels. Camels learn things a lot quicker and are much easier to train. But, both horses and camels are smart, have a near-perfect memory, and remember most of the things they have been taught for a long time. 

But regarding EQ (emotional quotient), horses have an advantage over camels. It is possibly due to camels’ advanced intellect and the fact that they can perceive events occurring in their surroundings much better and get emotionally upset a lot quicker than horses.

This significantly impacts their overall temperament and makes them slightly more challenging to deal with.  Since horses remain calm in most situations, they rarely get aggressive and can be handled quickly, making them better traveling companions in non-desert terrain.

Watch this Youtube video below if you want to learn how to introduce horses to camels.

Who would win a fight between a camel and a horse?

Considering a similar size camel and horse, the fight’s outcome is a little hard to predict, especially since the likelihood of this fight occurring in the first place is very low. Horses are afraid of camels, and camels may not engage in a battle.

However, wild horses are known to be aggressive creatures who maintain a sense of hierarchy and dominance. They often fight to be at the top of their herd or have a better chance at mating. On the other hand, Camels do not exhibit violent behavior to the same extent as horses do.

So horses have the upper hand regarding overall combat experience and aggression. But in terms of intelligence, camels, and other biological factors (jaw size, body odor, ligament mobility, etc.), camels have the upper hand.

Regarding kicking strength: horses have harder hooves and more muscular hindquarters. But their kicks are only confined to being in the forward or backward direction, while camels can also kick sideways. But since camels have longer necks, they can be knocked off balance a little more easily.

Though most would say that the camel would win (since horses would be disoriented by their odor), it’s hard to say who the victor of this battle would be since no such fight (that we know of)  has occurred in the past and most likely never will

Picture of a camel walking in the desert.
Picture of a bay horse on a walker.

What do horses and camels have in common? 

Camels and horses are often considered very different animals but have a lot in common. For starters, they both have four legs and long necks. They also share several other physical features, including an extra protective eyelid (nictitating membrane) that helps protect their eyes.

Another similarity between horses and camels is that they are both used as beasts of burden in many parts of the world. In fact, horses and camels have been working together for centuries. In ancient times, horses were used to pull chariots, while camels were used to carry goods and supplies.

Today, horses are still used for transportation in some parts of the world, while camels are commonly used as pack animals. In addition, camels and horses possibly share a common ancestor in the Mesozoic era, though the current families of horses and camels are not very strongly related. Here are some more interesting traits horses and camels have in common:

Appearance

Horses and camels have some similarities in their appearance. For starters, they both are covered with hair, have long necks and legs compared to their bodies, and have manes and tails.

In addition, both camels and horses are “ungulates,” mammals with hooves. The only difference is that camels have an even number of toes and belong to the Artiodactyla group. In contrast, horses have an odd number of hooves and belong to the Perissodactyla group.

Purpose

Horses and camels have been used for transportation, meat, and racing for centuries. In fact, they were some of the first domesticated animals. Horses were particularly popular in Asia and Europe, while camels were more prevalent in Africa and the Middle East.

Both camels and horses are strong and robust, can travel long distances, and carry heavy loads. As a result, they were essential for trade and transportation in many parts of the world. In addition to their practical applications, horses and camels have also been used for sport.

Horse racing is a popular pastime in many countries, while camel racing is more common in the Middle East. Both camels and horses are also sometimes slaughtered for their meat, which is a delicacy in some cultures. Consequently, horses and camels have played a vital role in human history, serving practical and cultural purposes.

Camels and horses are herbivores

Camels and horses are herbivores, and their diet primarily consists of hay or grass, wheat, oats, and grains. Both animals need roughage. Camels have the added advantage of having thick lips, so they can quickly eat thorny plants.

Here is a fun fact for you:

Horses cannot vomit due to a valve called Swiss Tie at the entrance of their stomach. Camels can vomit and spit and even project out the contents of their tummy if they are threatened!

Both drink lots of water.

Horses and camels are amazing creatures. Horses, for example, drink up to 10 gallons of water a day. That’s twenty times as much as a human. And they’re not alone. Camels can drink even more than horses.

In fact, they can drink up to 50 gallons of water a day. That’s a lot of water, and it’s no wonder they need to drink so much. These animals are big and require a lot of hydration to stay healthy.

By drinking lots of water, horses and camels can prevent heat stroke and other health problems. So, don’t be surprised if you see a horse or camel drinking a lot of water. They’re just doing what they must to stay healthy and hydrated.

Picture of a camel standing in the desert.

Why do People Prefer Camels over Horses in Deserts?

As mentioned before, camels are superior to horses regarding stamina. The hump on their back helps them store extra water and fat, which they can metabolize to produce instantaneous energy whenever required.

Camels can also carry heavier loads than horses, and that too for longer distances. They can quickly move around 400-600 pounds on their back and travel faster than horses in deserts. Horses aren’t surefooted as camels on sandy terrain, which slows them down.

Overall, camels are like horses that evolved to survive in desert terrain, which is why they are the obvious, better choice.

Picture of a horse with its ears pinned.

Why are Horses Afraid of Camels?

Despite being faster and more muscular than camels, horses seem pretty afraid of camels. Many reasons explain this, but primarily because horses have a keen sense of smell and cannot endure the strong odor a camel gives. 

Their stench disorients and irritates the horses, so they run away from camels and other similar foul-smelling creatures like llamas. Maybe if you bathe a camel regularly and get rid of its stench, it won’t scare off a horse, but due to a horse’s perfect memory, perhaps they may still associate the camel with their stench and run away from them instead of taking a risk.

Another reason horses are afraid of camels could be because camels are taller than horses. Camels also have absurdly long necks, which is why horses may be intimidated by them.

Sometimes the overall unpredictable behavior of camels can scare a horse too. Their loud noises and irregular walking patterns can sometimes startle horses or make them feel uneasy.

It is interesting to note that camels aren’t afraid of horses. As mentioned before, they are intelligent creatures and often, out of curiosity, approach horses to get a better look at them. This bothers the horses and causes them to run away. 

Can Camels and Horses Live Together?

Even though horses are generally afraid of camels, they can be made to live together if given enough time to get to know each other. The key is early training and desensitization.

Training an older horse to get accustomed to a camel could prove to be a difficult task. Still, it can be accomplished by frequently introducing the horse to the camel and allowing them to gradually get used to each other’s behavior patterns, odor, and appearance.

Even playing camel noises occasionally around the horses can aid them in eventually getting used to the odd sounds they make.

Many settlers and travelers in the past had raised foals and camel calves together. Since the horses and camels had been living together since they were young, they were naturally used to being around each other and could easily live together. Some were even able to breed horses and camels successfully.

Picture of yearlings in a field.

Summary: Camel vs. Horse: How Do They Compare

As can be seen, there are some similarities and differences between the two species. Let us have a quick summary:

  • Strength: Camels have the edge here since they can carry heavier loads on their backs.
  • Endurance: Again, camels are winners here as they can travel longer distances than horses, especially in areas having extreme temperatures, which is why they have a higher endurance to external conditions in comparison to horses.
  • Energy: Camels are superior to horses in this parameter since they have a large hump on their back to store extra fat and water, which they can use for energy whenever required.
  • Speed: Horses are faster than camels over terrains where the soil is well-packed and hard. Camels may outrun horses on sandy terrain.
  • Intelligence: Camels are more intelligent than horses and do not get scared as easily as horses.
  • Emotional Quotient: Horses do not get emotionally upset as quickly as camels do. Camels often get upset due to several factors and show unpredictable behavior. Camels have an EQ between 1.2 and 1.3, while horses have an EQ of 0.9.
  • Combat: It can go either way. Horses are more aggressive by nature, but camels have the advantage of size, strength, jaw shape, and ligament mobility.
  • Better traveling companion: This depends mainly on the terrain. If the terrain is sandy, you would want a camel. Otherwise, you would prefer a horse. Camels get emotionally upset, while horses get scared very quickly, which you should keep in mind while handling either of them.
  • Ease of training: Horses are more accessible to train than camels since their behavior patterns are more predictable, and they respond well to treats and positive reinforcement.

FAQs – Camel vs. Horse: How Do They Compare?

Why are camels used instead of horses?

Camels are primarily used instead of horses over sandy terrain as they are surefooted on such loose soil. Furthermore, camels are more likely to survive in dry, waterless environments than horses.

Is it harder to ride a camel or horse?

If you need speed on non-sandy terrain, you’d naturally do better riding a horse. However, newbie riders might still prefer camels since they are slower and less intimidating to ride. It may also be easier for humans to get on the camels’ backs as they sit down for humans to climb on them.

Can camels and horses breed?

Camels and horses cannot breed since they are not closely-related species. For any two species to produce, there must be some genetic similarities that horses and camels lack.