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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