The Most Disagreeable Beast

Camels fording stream, Elah Valley, mat01310 Camels fording Elah Brook, early 1900s

“Of all the burden-bearing beasts, from the Siam elephant to the Himmaleh goat, this ‘ship of the desert,’ as he has been poetically termed,-this clumsy-joined, splay-footed, wry-necked, vicious camel, with its look of injured innocence, and harsh, complaining voice, is incomparably the most disagreeable.

“Loud have been the praises of its submissive and self-sacrificing spirit, all gentleness and sagacity; its power of enduring hunger and thirst for an indefinite period, and its unwearied tramp day after day through the smiting sun and over the burning sands of the desert; but this animal is anything but patient or uncomplaining. As to the enormous weight it can carry, we have heard it growl in expostulation at a load which the common ‘kadish’ (Syrian pack-horse) would be mortified to have allotted to him as suited to his thews and sinews” –W. F. Lynch, Expedition to the River Jordan and the Dead Sea (1849): 222.

The photo and quotation are taken from the Traditional Life and Customs volume of The American Colony and Eric Matson Collection (Library of Congress, LC-matpc-01310).


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About the BiblePlaces Blog

The BiblePlaces Blog provides updates and analysis of the latest in biblical archaeology, history, and geography. Unless otherwise noted, the posts are written by Todd Bolen, PhD, Professor of Biblical Studies at The Master’s University.


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