1987 - Volume #11, Issue #1, Page #20[ Sample Stories From This Issue | List of All Stories In This Issue | Print this story | Read this issue]
Farmers Train Camels"From Memorial Day to Labor Day, we're busy traveling to zoos giving camel rides," says Rowdy Malchow, who, along with brothers Tony and Chip, train camels on their grandfather's farm near Beatrice, Neb.
Rowdy got into the camel-taming business while working for an uncle who was curator at a wilderness park. Rowdy's ability to train wild camels caught the attention of Tom Smith, Galveston, Ind., who owns a number of camels. Now, Smith supplies Rowdy and his brothers with camels to train. He's their agent for lining up camel ride bookings at zoos and special events where the brothers give kids and adults rides on the camels to raise money for charities and other causes.
"The camels we work with are the one-humped Arabian breed. They're used to hot weather and walking in sand. Camels are smarter than horses but are tougher to train because they're always trying to out-think you," Rowdy notes. "Breaking them involves teaching them to lead, then to kneel so people can get on, breaking to saddle ù and to tolerate riders. That's the fun part. Like a horse, they'll try throwing you off the first few times. With their long, stiff legs, they can't really jump but rather kind of hop around.
"We've found camels to be easier to train when they're young and when they're domesticated. But we've also trained older and wild camels. We also work mostly with females as they're easier to train.
"Part of the training includes citifying them, which means getting them used to a variety of noises. We do this by turning up the barn radio loud to music," Rowdy points out.
Saddles for the camels are special-made. They sit right on top of the hump, strapping on much like a horse saddle with front and back cinches. The saddles feature a handlebar for the rider to hold onto.
The camels' diet consists of prairie and alfalfa hay, along with a high protein grain mix of corn, oats and molasses. Rowdy notes that the animals, natives of the Arabian deserts, withstand the Nebraska winters well and seem to enjoy frolicking in the snow. However, in cold weather they do stay in the barn.
Rowdy adds that one misconception about camels is that they spit a lot. "They only spit when they're really mad and then what they're spitting is their cud."
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