Fun Facts About Camels in Kyrgyzstan

5 Fun Facts About Camels in Kyrgyzstan

While in Kyrgyzstan for the World Nomad Games, I had the privilege to meet many interesting people, including camel shepherd Dustin, a job I wasn’t even aware existed until my recent visit. Nor was I even aware that there were camels in Kyrgyzstan!

5 Fun Facts About Camels in Kyrgyzstan

Meeting the Kyrgyz people was one of the highlights of my time at the World Nomad Games. The people I met were incredibly open and patient as I inquired about their lives, so different from mine. I learned so much and  didn’t realize how little I knew about camels until my conversation with Dustin.

5 Fun Facts About Camels in Kyrgyzstan

Dustin is a camel shepherd in the summer months and a cook during the winter months. He takes care of 30 female camels. Males are aggressive he says, so he stays clear of them. Camels have been known to kill people if they get angry enough. His eyes grow wide, his body language expansive as he mimes a camel stepping on an unfortunate soul, then crushing it under its massive weight.

5 Fun Facts About Camels in Kyrgyzstan

It’s hard to imagine as I affectionately stroke the check of Zita, one of Dustin’s camels. She seems to enjoy it and flutters her long eyelashes at me in response.

Soon after, she sits down. I wrongly interpret this as an invitation that she wants to prolong our meeting. She spits on the ground, narrowly missing my foot. Even with my limited understanding of camel behaviour, it’s clear that she’s had enough and wants to be left alone. Dustin laughs. You’re lucky she didn’t aim for your head.

5 Fun Facts About Camels in Kyrgyzstan

Camels don’t play a huge role in Kyrgyz culture, as they do in some other cultures. When I mentioned to one local that I had met a camel shepherd, she admitted that she had never met one. If you happen to be going for a winter hike, you may find yourself hiking next to a camel! In winter camels roam free in the Tien Shan mountains of Kyrgyzstan, They walk long distances to find a mate. They can also be aggressive at this time, so be sure to keep your distance.

5 Fun Facts About Camels in Kyrgyzstan

And how does a camel shepherd round-up his camels in spring? In Dustin’s case, he entices them with two of their favourite foods – apples and candies! Who knew that camels had a sweet tooth?

So what exactly are camels used for in Kyrgyzstan? They’re used primarily for guiding tourists. Dustin also sells their fur, which is quite warm quote. Given Zita’s displeasure at simply being stroked when she wanted to be left alone, I can only imagine the bravery it would take to sheer a camel!

5 Fun Facts About Camels in Kyrgyzstan

Meeting Dustin was one of my highlights at the World Nomad Games. He gave me an insider glimpse into his life of a camel shepherd and opened my eyes to a world that I didn’t even know existed. Our encounter also made me realize that despite my soft spot for animals, I am no camel whisperer!

The next World Nomad Games will be held in 2018. Follow Discover Kyrgyzstan on Twitter for the latest updates.

5 Fun Facts About Camels in Kyrgyzstan


Note: My trip was organized in cooperation with Discover Kyrgyzstan, and made possible by the support of  the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). All opinions are my own. 

Laurel Robbins is the founder of Monkeys and Mountains, an adventure travel blog and company that helps people plan their active holidays in a sustainable way. Although Canadian, she lives in Germany. You can find her in the mountains on most weekends.
2017-03-13T04:18:23+00:00

9 Comments

  1. Edward September 26, 2016 at 8:42 pm - Reply

    What gorgeous looking creatures … would love to ride one!

    • Laurel September 28, 2016 at 8:57 am - Reply

      I loved spending time with them, but not sure about riding one. I think it would be rather uncomfortable, but definitely something to experience!

  2. Josh Lokken October 7, 2016 at 4:16 pm - Reply

    Didn’t even know they had camels in this part of the world – very cool! Any suggestions for finding cheap flights into Kyrgyzstan?

  3. Kerry Lynn October 13, 2016 at 3:06 pm - Reply

    Looks awesome! I would love to go to Kyrgyzstan, other than our brief stop over at Bishkek airport on our way to Mongolia.Love the colourful camel coats!

    • Laurel October 13, 2016 at 4:38 pm - Reply

      @Kerry Lynn – Kyrgyzstan is definitely worth a visit, I loved it! Enjoy Mongolia, sounds like a great trip!

  4. Karen October 14, 2016 at 10:23 am - Reply

    If you liked Mongolia, you would LOVE Kyrgyzstan! We have nomads and yurts but not steppe – multitudes of gorgeous mountains! Next time, disembark in Bishkek!

    • Laurel October 21, 2016 at 10:38 am - Reply

      @Karen – I haven’t been to Mongolia, but LOVED Kyrgyzstan!

  5. Kerry Lynn October 21, 2016 at 10:47 am - Reply

    @karen – Sounds gorgeous- just up my street, will definitely get out of airport next time!

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