Once upon a time in a town in Almería, Pechina, a family of camels arrived from the volcanic lands of the Canary Islands 12 years ago, brought by Úrsula, a German veterinarian who has lived in the town for 15 years. After working with them for a few years, he knew that he wanted to set up a farm-school in one of the sunniest corners of Spain and teach the children to interact with these camelids. Thus he formed a very particular family. Frasco, Eva, Indalo, Petete, Jacinto, Armani,… are delighted to receive us in Pechina, their land of adoption, and tell us about their day-to-day life, their life with Úrsula, the camel driver Miloud and the people who come from all over Spain and the world to know them. But let’s give the floor to our new friends, Ursula’s dromedaries.
Our history, a new beginning
Hello friends! My name is Frasquito and I am going to tell you our story. The life of our ancestors was very hard, in the Canary Islands we needed a lot for work in the fields and we were there for more than 600 years. Then tourism arrived, around the 70s, so we started to work offering tourist trips, which was already a much lighter job. Although once, in Africa, we lived in large herds and in larger spaces, so we had less contact with people.
We met Úrsula in the Canary Islands , back in 1997. She came to a zoo in Fuerteventura that also had a camel caravan and she wanted to work there as it seemed like an incredible place to her. His future boss, the owner of a large group of camels, suggested that he stay and work in a vacant veterinary position for a year. That way he could learn enough to do his job well. In the end he stayed longer … With this woman he learned a lot of practical work and the camel drivers, former fighters of the Polisario front, introduced him to basic work with camels: handling, feeding, caring for childbirth and raising children, etc. . They also let him milk camels, which was what he liked the most.
Úrsula always tells us that when a day passed without seeing us, she only saw humps when she closed her eyes . She wanted to help improve camel farming in the Canary Islands . So, he wrote a guide for tour guides; organized conferences; he asked and advised the camel drivers; created an association of breeders … He even collaborated in the creation of the autochthonous camel breed, a work supported by the Complutense University of Madrid and the Cabildo de Lanzarote: “the Canary Camel”, recognized by the Ministry of Agriculture. All this work resulted in a book about us that was awarded by the Ministry of Agriculture.
Our destiny changed after all that. It was when we started a journey towards a new life… a journey of 3 days and 3 nights in huge trucks full of rich straw, inside a ship that was sailing from the Canary Islands to Cádiz. The first game left from Gran Canaria and the second from Lanzarote. And from Cádiz to Pechina, in Almería. A few months after arrival we got used to Almería, which now, by the way, we like it a lot. There we met Indalo and Vera , who came from a zoo in Murcia . Later, some camels were born here in Pechina , like little Turrón , Sierra’s son , and these days Guajira’s son . Our past is alien to them and it is already far away …
Camels or dromedaries?
Although everyone here thinks we are camels, we are actually dromedaries (Camelus dromedarius). It is easy to differentiate ourselves as we have only one hump . We come from hot deserts and we resist the sun’s rays, heat and thirst for a long time. Because our body is so large, it heats up slowly, making it easier for us to maintain temperature. Despite this, we are lighter than our brother camels, the two-humped (Camelus bactrianus). They live in cold deserts, such as the Gobi, where their robustness and abundant wool help them to withstand temperatures of -40ºC. There is a third species with a hump, it is the wild camel(Camelus bactrianus ferus), which is in danger of extinction. They only survive in northern China, in a nature reserve, and in Mongolia. All hunchbacks live in the Old World, in Europe and Asia, in Africa and Oceania. However, there are more camelids, those of the New World, that do not have a hump. Surely you have heard of them, they are llamas, vicuñas, alpacas and guanacos .
We are calm beings … we love to live in a herd
We are calm beings, we love tranquility, we prefer to be resting than to be running around. Maybe people think that we like to walk freely in the countryside or the desert, but in reality what interests us about the outings is to see if there is food. It is that we are not as nomadic as our ancestors , we prefer to be resting comfortably at home, to be calm and safe . And we love the schedules . We want to know what is going to happen, having information gives us security. In fact, when Úrsula takes us out an hour or two earlier, or wakes us up late, we get upset.
Actually, we are not that different from humans. You also like to feel safe, live comfortably,… On one occasion, Úrsula took us to Mojácar on vacation, there were plants, bushes, grass,… she thought we would be at liberty. The plan was to be in nature from Monday to Friday and on weekends take people for walks to the beach. But we end up missing the safety and ease of the farm.
What matters most to us is routine, safety, comfort, and… food! We also like to play, especially the younger ones. Úrsula invents games for us, but our favorite game is to fight each other , especially the young people; it is a way to prepare for the future, to seek a good hierarchy within the herd.
For us it is important to live in a herd , we always seek to be close to each other. We are always looking forward to the others coming to work to be all together. On the farm there are two herds, Indalo runs the largest, Armani, his competitor, the smallest.
Our little things …
Sometimes we get jealous, we don’t understand that Úrsula can sometimes treat someone like the “pretty boy” because he’s sick and we think she loves him more. But immediately he comes to caress us all and feed us and we forget. The truth is that we are a bit complaining, poor Úrsula !. Sometimes we get a little bump or bruise from the fight the day before and when we are saddled or touched, we scream! She thinks we are terrible because we complain as if we died. So that leaves us 5 days off … but just realizing that we do not have anythin. The camel driver perceives it before, our tricks are useless, he knows that this or that is very loud. Other times it is logical that we complain, because the day before they gave us the injection against ticks and we are afraid that they will puncture us again. Well, only Jacinto likes to be pricked, he knows that when they draw blood they will give him a piece of bread. Most of us ran away … we’re a bit shitty …
We introduce ourselves …
We are a lot of people: 20 hunchbacks (as Úrsula affectionately calls us) with different personalities. At the Antonio he likes to work and eat, also fighting. On the other hand , Pepe was always a fighter with others, but with Úrsula he is always kind, he adores people and loves to be scratched. El Jacinto is a good worker, a professional who always walks people and is friendly, although he is not affectionate or cuddly and does not especially enjoy being scratched. I think it’s because it’s so scary. But he does like to be given food, he is very gluttonous, he is always thinking about eating, he sees humans as “food dispensers”, he is the most fan of bread!
Armani is the strongest, very kind and very sensitive, and that he is a “whole male” (that is, he is not neutered), but he trusts humans a lot. He is only absent during the mating season, but afterwards, he is always available to spend time with Úrsula and with the visitors. The Frasquito or Frasco is me. I was always a calm person and I am the only one who does not work because I have a lump. I am always on the loose even when there are children running around the farm, Úrsula says that I am kind, although not especially loving. Pulguita loves to be scratched, and eating, is always waiting for something to be given to her. EveShe is the oldest, was born in the Sahara and must be in her 30s. In her youth she was a good worker because of her strength and endurance, but here in Almería she didn’t carry much weight because she was older; however, it took long walks without getting tired thanks to its long legs. And she was careful with disabled children and the elderly. She is no longer that scared and shy camel that came to Pechina. Now she is even alone with people and takes selfies , she has no fear. Of course she is very clever, when Úrsula takes her out to eat, she lies down in the sun, and when it is time to leave is when she starts to eat and wants to be expected. Úrsula gets angry, but she knows how to make him laugh.
We love to eat!
We are herbivores, we spend our days ruminating the vegetables we eat, such as cows. We are used to arid places and our body is adapted to eating a lot of it and making the most of it. Úrsula brings us all kinds of delicious vegetables, I also think of camels that they make in Murcia, although we eat little of this. And what we like the most is the bread that Juan Carlos gives us in a store in town!
To eat we divide into two herds, the large herd goes up to the terrace and eats there, the small herd at home, has a hut with a flower bed. Every day after work, the people we take for a walk feed us, they love to do it. That’s one of the reasons we like people. One of the biggest parties of the day is when, after the second walk in the afternoon, people stay a while longer and then give us bread. Or when Úrsula rewards us with this delicacy for some reason. It is so delicious!
What a pleasure to have our hair combed!
We also like to be caressed and brushed, that’s why we stand in line! In time of change we all want to go to the hairdresser , it is such a great pleasure!
At first no one combed their hair, the first to be left was a very conceited camel called Camela la Reina , who loved to be groomed. The children spent hours fixing her, even one day they painted her face pink. We were scared, but Camela’s boyfriend immediately perked up. And then we started to try all of them, and now we even lie on the sand to get our hair done, it’s a pleasure! Even Eva, who is very shy, and watched from afar how they combed our hair, one day a child came up to her and combed her hair, and now she loves it. Toñi doesn’t even reach the sand, he already lies down to be combed while he’s still on the road.
Our day to day
We like schedules , we prefer that everything is always the same, that way life is easier. Úrsula and Miloud arrive at 8 in the morning and we begin to get up little by little with the illusion of having breakfast , lest we not have time before work. We fill our bellies with delicious straw. Úrsula lately took walks with Guajira, who was pregnant and had to walk, (the little one was already born), and then she lets camels and mallow from the garden eat and lets us go to eat.
Then it’s time for work : they prepare us, saddle us and comb our hair, then they put us in line and we go to work. When there is school, from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. we go on excursions with the children, we walk them and then at the farm they comb our hair and feed us. In summer we take two walks in the afternoons.
On the days that we do not work , the small herd goes out to the terrace in the morning, returns at noon and in the afternoon the other party leaves. Armani, when his neighbors go out to the terrace, he goes out to the neighbors’ corral. Petete, the grumpy old camel, when these come out, he stays loose in the garden, as it is quiet … and also Eva, the eldest. Indalo, in the afternoon, when those from the large corral come out, he goes to the other side.
One of the best times of the day is dinner time. We wait anxiously for Úrsula to call us for dinner and, when the time comes, we run like crazy. We know that there is always a piece of bread in the feed and Úrsula knows that bread brightens our day. Later, when it gets dark, we eat some straw and go to bed, although at 12 o’clock at night we get up for a while to eat straw again, until we go to bed.
It is not that we like to exercise very much, we would prefer to stay at home sunbathing, watching the time go by, it is so nice !. Also, we are not like horses that are always standing. Our body is super flexible , we can double as a beach chair and we take advantage of that to lead this comfortable life that we lead. Although Úrsula says that it is good that we move, that we have to work… We carry out three different activities: tourist walks in summer and on weekends; birthdays on weekends and school excursions with the children,… oh, and at Christmas we participate in the Horseback Rides . The truth is that our work is not very hard,we have good working conditions, with many days off and vacations!
Before we started taking people out for walks we had to train for many months with sandbags to be able to carry weight in a methodical and rhythmic way. Each of us does not take more than 2 or 3 walks a day and we always do the same route, which lasts about 35 minutes .
Taking people for a walk is not so bad. In fact, we prefer to bring people to go alone: we are less afraid , the more we are, the less we are afraid. It is our herd instinct. Although afterwards we are very different from each other. Some like to go in front, for example, Indalo only goes in front, if not, he does not go. Other camels want to go behind. Although most like to go in the middle , they feel more secure. And then there are more or less workers.
The walks are slow, rhythmic , we balance people and I think they feel comfortable, that they love to climb on top and see reality from another point of view. Although we are really a bit clumsy , especially to advance, since we walk in an amble , not diagonally like horses. We move the front and rear limbs on one side at the same time. That makes us less agile, although we spend less energy in the advance – 30% less than that spent by a horse traveling the same distance at the same speed. In addition, as we come from hot deserts, the important thing there is not to be agile, since the enemies can be seen from afar, what matters is to save energy.
After working we know that we are going to have a prize: food and enjoying our free time . So we are happier than if we do nothing all day.
We love hiking with the kids! Úrsula’s dream: school farms
The farm-school is like a dream world , everyone has a good time, the children, the teachers, us the camels, Úrsula, the camel driver. It is an educational project that allows children to get to know us and we get to know them. It is a luxury that they have us in a farm-school, it is a very beautiful job. The children value us very much because Úrsula tells them about us in class before the excursion : about biology, how we are, how we live, what we like, how they have to treat us, … so when they meet us at the farm they already know some things about us and they are very excited . And then everything is so easy …
It is time for the excursion and everything is playing, having fun, spending the day in the field all together . First they know us from the ground, they trust each other and then when they go up and hallucinate. The days are eternal when the children come, fantastic. After the walk, we go to the farm and there, the children feed us, they love to touch, caress and comb our hair.
Úrsula has more projects in mind, she would like to spend more time with the children; start a field toy library; have a garden together ; teach the children of the cities what we are like; allow them to live the experience that those of Pechina and its surroundings have. It would be nice… to get to know each other more thoroughly.
How do we see humans?
Humans are the ones who feed us, the ones who scratch us, the ones who take us for a walk, the ones who give us affection. Life with humans is fine, no one scratches and combs our hair better than a human!
Úrsula is our coworker, our caregiver , but above all our family . She does not see us as if we were hers, I think we are too special for her to feel that we are her property. What he wants is for us to be well, to live comfortably. He spends the day from here to there working, looking for food, cleaning us, inventing activities, talking to us. She looks happy when we are happy.
Úrsula dedicates time to us, she gives us affection. She does not see us as camels, rather as if we were people, I think she does not see differences between animals and people. It seems to me that she is actually one of us.
Miloud the camel driver
Miloud lives with his beautiful family very close to Pechina. He takes good care of us, he is hard-working and methodical , he never wastes time talking instead of working. Heh, heh, and we obey him more than Úrsula, because we respect him, he doesn’t forgive our laziness and delays like she does. Which does not mean that we do not love him, we love him very much!
We enjoy the company of the children, when they learn to know each other it is all fantastic. Also, we know that when they come there will be a party… food and a hairdresser.
The other animals
Besides us, other animals live on the farm. There is the dog Ruini – it has the name of a Sufi philosopher from Al-Andalus times who lived very free, just like the dog. He is always happy and greets everyone: he licks us, the cat and the goats.
Although there is a large colony of cats, about 20, the cat on the farm is Tridi . She lives with us in the little red house and sleeps in the straw next to us. The truth is that he prefers us to other cats. And she is a brave one, defending her territory fiercely, despite being petite. We like him, sometimes she falls asleep under Indalo, of course, we give her heat, ..
The three beautiful mares owned by Ingrid , Úrsula’s sister; They come from Russia and are of the Akhal-Teke breed, of Turkmen origin.
And finally, there are the goats Ramón and Justo. Úrsula says that they are “two useless destroyers”, but in reality she adores them, she walks with them every day. Sometimes they steal our feed, but if they see us they run away.
At night, when Eva and Sierra are out, there is a lot of noise between everyone, although it is quite entertaining. The goats are hungry, they want to take their food away, Eva sometimes bites the goats’ horns, the cat goes in to look for food or scratches the goat, it tries to defend itself, Eva gets fed up,… uf, in the end Úrsula throws us out , but is fun.
Our well-being … if we live like kings!
Sure, many people think that our work is hard, but it is not like that. Here they care about us and we all work, Úrsula the first, who works 16 hours a day and never rests. He lives for us and almost spends more than he earns.
She plans everything a lot , which is important for our well-being. Improvisation, according to her, only gives scares and startles. He asks that the rides be booked in advance, so he can calculate the weights of the people who come, explaining whether or not they can get on together, showing that we are not pack animals. People do not get angry, they understand and accept the rules of animal welfare that are never violated here. We do not overexert ourselves and we do not take more than three walks a day, with intermediate rest if we have adults. In addition, they worry that we do not carry more weight than necessary. Surely if he charged us more, he would earn more money, but he doesn’t want to. She knows well who of us can carry more or less, for being smaller or for being a camel; or if one cannot because of an injury. For example, Armani weighs about 800 kg and is super trained, so he can carry a person weighing 100 kg without problem. The maximum that you can carry two people weighing about 130 kg, is the limit. Of course our work is not hard …
And here with Úrsula we live really well. In addition, the work that the camels, Úrsula and the camel driver do together is the only form of income from the farm, we do it to support ourselves, to live together, no one takes advantage of anyone . In addition, behind all this there is an educational project with the children . And the best thing is that in the end everyone ends up seeing us, not as animals, but as living beings.
Proof of how much they love us is the story of two camels that left here, the only ones that were sold. They were two young males who were somewhat aggressive due to heat, but since they cannot be castrated very soon, Úrsula did not want to have them alone for so long, away from the herd. So he found a good option: some animal lovers who wanted to buy one and in the end they took both. They live wonderfully and they even send us photos, and if something happened to their owners, they would return with Úrsula.
Taking María and Iñigo from El Giróscopo Viajero for a walk
They came to the farm asking for us, they also wanted to know how we lived, if we didn’t mind being ridden. When they were convinced of how well we lived here, it was time for the walk, for them it was the first time and they were really happy. Every human likes to climb on things that are high, It is exciting. At all times they smiled, caressed us and talked to us. We were already rubbing our paws thinking about the bread that they were sure to give us. I think they imagined that we were walking through the desert as they had seen in the movies, then we returned and they fed us all, the pieces of bread were flying. I, Frasquito, posed with Iñigo for the photos and he became a good friend of mine, and then we all fought to be in the photo with them and Úrsula. It was really a fantastic day! I suppose they came here to learn about our life and then tell it and encourage people to come and see the Camels of Almería.
It’s time to go! I hope you enjoyed listening to our story, that you had fun with the daily comics of our farm. Now that you know us a little bit, we invite you to visit us at the farm, get to know us up close and, if you wish, take a walk with us and chat with Úrsula about our life. They can also give us the bread they want, it will be a party for sure!
Welcome to the Camels of Almería farm! In Pechina, don’t forget it!
How to get to Pechina, a Camellos de Almería
The Camel Farm of Almería is in Pechina, 20 minutes from Almería capital, 1 hour from Mojácar. Specifically, it is located between Pechina and Viator. To get there by car you have to take the A7 / E15 motorway , exit 452 . You have to take the regional road AL-3117 that goes from Viator to Rioja and enter the Camino Ramblin. Follow the arrows that indicate the Camel Farm.
You can park in an open field about 70 meters before reaching the farm.
This article is the result of an interview we did with Úrsula and a visit to Camellos de Almería that we did in September 2019.
We therefore thank Úrsula Schulz, the Camels of Almería and Miloud for their kindness and welcome, we spent a delicious day with you and with the camels in your farm in Pechina. It was a pleasure meeting you, delving into the wonderful work you do with these animals, taking a walk with them, feeding and grooming them. I wish we had spent a few days with you helping you and getting to know your work more thoroughly. We wish you the best of luck!
Thanks to Frasquito, Petete, Eva, Turrón, Toñi, Vera, Guajira, Pepe, Indalo, Armani, Jacinto, Pulguita,… the cat Tridi, the dog Ruini, the goats Ramón and Justo.
Thanks, of course, to Turismo Costa de Almería for their support in this wonderful journey of discovery of this piece of Almería that has conquered us. Thanks to Enrique Parra for his professionalism and for his pleasant company in this journey through the lands of Almería. And for preparing this fantastic visit to know the Camels of Almería.