Inspection of the teeth of a mature male camel reveals its darker nature. Not only does it have fang-like canines, but the corner incisors and first premolars in the upper jaw along with the first premolars in the lower jaws have also been sculpted into fangs, all of which are readily put to use in the rutting season when it competes with other males for the services of a female. To parry the attacks, the males grow bushy beards under their chins.
But driving off the competition is not enough, a male also engages in indecent displays in the hope of impressing females: the soft region of the lower palate at the back of the mouth is filled with air and protruded through the side of the mouth as a pendulous bladder of flesh, the dulaa, the size of which advertises the camel’s testosterone levels; the tail is also flipped between the legs towards the penis, soaked in pee and flapped around wantonly; while two glands behind the head and between the ears secrete a powerful stench of pheromones that females find irresistible.
During the breeding season, a female is receptive for a period of 3 to 4 days every fortnight when she will seek out the male, flaunt her hind parts, pee constantly and flip her tail up and down in a flirt. Despite the come-on, she takes flight when approached by the male, who is then obliged to give chase, barging and biting her in his mounting excitement. On capturing her, he neck-wrestles her to the ground, pins her with his front legs and straddles her from behind, then adjusts his position by moving up the hump and sliding down until squatting on his back legs. The penis now emerges, about 60 cm long and shaped like a sickle. A necessary design since a camel normally pees backwards and the penis needs to curve round and up to be inserted in the vulva, a clumsy business which needs a few shuffles, exploratory pokes and sometimes the helping hand of a Bedouin. The male now shifts his gaze into the distance, his nostrils quivering and saliva drooling, while the female bellows and groans and twists round to bite his neck. It can last up to 40 mins before the male finally releases his grip and tumbles sideways onto the ground, a spent camel.
The whole emotional performance is required to stimulate ovulation in the female. Like cats and rabbits, an egg will not be released from the ovaries until after aggressive copulation has taken place. For this reason the sperm is not immediately active inside the uterus but takes several days to become motile to give time for the egg to appear.
About fourteen days later, if fertilisation has occurred, the female will signal her pregnancy to any approaching male by raising her tail and curling it to the right: a sure sign to the Bedouin that they have a mother in the herd. Gestation lasts about 13 months.