If you’ve ever seen a camel foam at the mouth, you were probably both disgusted and curious. While it’s not a pleasant sight to behold, the reasons behind this display of saliva are fascinating.
Camels foam at the mouth when they’re ready to mate or when they have rabies. Male camels hypersalivate during the breeding season, and they also show their dullas, urinate on their tails, and secrete a tar-colored substance from their poll glands. If rabies is the reason a camel is frothing at the mouth, other symptoms like aggression will also occur.
Continue reading to learn more about camel mating behaviors and the way that rabies presents in these animals.
They’re Ready To Mate
The first and most common reason that camels foam at the mouth is that they are ready to mate.
Hypersalivation or frothing at the mouth is most often seen in male camels when they are in rut, also known as the breeding season, which usually takes place during the cooler seasons.
Other Signs Of Being In Rut
Aside from foaming at the mouth, male camels have numerous other ways of attracting females.
Camels have an extension of the soft palate that looks a bit like a pink balloon. This is called a dulla (sometimes spelled “dulaa” or “dulah”).
When testosterone levels rise, the dulla is triggered to develop, and the male camel blows through it so that it pushes outside of his mouth.
Dullas are often mistaken for camels’ tongues, but this is a complete misconception.
The size of a male camel’s dulla shows females that he is virile. Females also have dullas, but they remain inside of their mouths rather than sticking out.
Once the male camel has pushed the dulla outside of his mouth, he uses his saliva to create a low gurgling noise as a mating call.
Another way male camels show females they want to mate is by urinating on their tails and then swishing their tails over their backs to spread the urine.
Male camels’ urine contains pheromones that attract females.
Poll Gland Secretions
Males also secrete a tar-colored liquid from their poll glands when they are ready to mate. These glands are located between camels’ ears and on the backs of their necks.
When ready to mate, male camels become extremely aggressive toward other males.
Their activity level also increases exponentially, and much of their time is spent fighting for a harem of females that can include more than 20 camels.
Female Camel Behavior During Mating Season
Female camels don’t foam at the mouth when they’re ready to mate, but they have their own ways of showing that they’re prepared to reproduce.
They bleat to show that they’re receptive to males’ advances, and they also approach males and present their hindquarters to them.
Females also flip their tails up and down quickly and urinate constantly when preparing for mating.
They Have Rabies
The second and less common reason that camels may foam at the mouth is that they have rabies.
Camels most often contract rabies when they are bitten by a wild rabid dog, fox, jackal, monkey, hyena, wolf, or cat. This typically happens when one of these animals attempts to attack a camel’s offspring, and the camel steps in to protect them.
Foaming at the mouth is a common rabies symptom for camels and other animals, but there are many more symptoms as well. They include the following:
- Major changes in behavior and mood
- Progressive paralysis beginning in the hind legs
- Sudden loss of appetite
- Nervousness or apprehension
- Attacks on inanimate objects
- Rotation of neck and head in all directions
- Withdrawal from the herd
- Self-biting of forelimbs
- Loss of balance and coordination
- Changes in vocalizations
- Uncharacteristic aggressiveness
- Inability to get up from a lying-down position
A camel with rabies may die within three to seven days. Usually, camels with rabies are rejected from the herd and left to die alone.
In China, some domestic camels are vaccinated against rabies using a double dose of a canine vaccine.
The main reason that camels foam at the mouth is that they are males who are ready to mate. This excess saliva isn’t the only sign male camels provide, though. A male camel will also urinate on its tail and show its dulla (an extension of the soft palate), among other displays.
Rabies is the other reason that camels might foam at the mouth. If a camel has rabies, it will usually have other symptoms as well. A few of these include a loss of appetite, aggression, paralysis, and changes in mood and behavior.
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