Aside from their appearance, camels are likely an animal with which you are not overly familiar. These large mammals are obviously known for their large fat humps, but they are also known for being extremely hardy animals that are capable of withstanding the harshest desert conditions.

One thing that you’ve likely realized is in short supply in the desert is an abundance of food. The desert is an extremely specific ecosystem, and its plants and animals have all had to develop adaptations to survive these harsh conditions. Camels are no different! Camels can eat snakes but it isn’t usual, and they will rarely suffer notable negative effects from consuming snakes when they do. 


Do Camels Eat Snakes?

Oddly enough, yes, camels will eat snakes, but it’s rarely of their own volition. While there may be instances in which it’s necessary for the survival of a camel to eat something it normally wouldn’t, like a snake, there aren’t any known examples of camels going out of their way to eat a snake.

Camels in Arabia
Image Credit: Yasser El Dershaby, Shutterstock

Why Are Snakes Fed to Camels?

Sometimes, people will feed snakes to camels. Why? There is a disease that camels can develop that causes a variety of symptoms, including lethargy, anemia, swelling, and fever. Anecdotally, this disease, known as Hyam, also causes camels to refuse to eat. It’s believed by some people that there is no understandable cause of this disease and that the only cure for it is to feed a venomous snake to the camel.

It’s generally believed that camels suffering from Hyam are actually suffering from a parasitic infection called Trypanosomiasis, caused by the T. evansi parasite. This infection can cause multiple reproductive problems, including spontaneous abortions, stillbirths and neonate death, and testicular degeneration. Without appropriate medical interventions, Trypanosomiasis has a mortality rate near 100%.

Do Camels Cry After Eating Snakes?

Part of the beliefs surrounding Hyam is that once a camel has consumed a venomous snake, it will shed tears. In some cultures, these tears are even believed to have healing abilities, sometimes being used as a cure for snake bites in humans.

There is no scientific evidence that backs this belief, though. It seems purely anecdotal that camels may “cry” after being fed a snake, and there is absolutely no proof that tears from a camel, post-venomous snake or otherwise, have any curative properties for humans’ ailments.

Interestingly, scientists have discovered that camels are better at producing antibodies than many other animals. This has led to camels being used as a means to produce antivenom in areas where it may be in short supply, not be affordable, or may not be able to be stored properly. Antivenom produced from camel antibodies is typically able to be stored at room temperature, which is important in poor countries with warm climates.

Are Venomous Snakes Toxic to Camels?

Camels are not immune from the effects of snake venom when it comes to bites, but they rarely suffer notable negative effects from consuming snakes. This is due to the composition of snake venom and the fragile proteins that account for most of its structure. Due to the strong digestive system of camels, consumed snake venom is eliminated by regular digestive function.

It’s also important to keep in mind that snakes that are force-fed venomous snakes are typically extremely sick, so it would be easy to overlook the negative effects of the snake venom due to the number of other symptoms the camel may already be experiencing.

Dekay's Brownsnake_Frode Jacobsen_Shutterstock
Image Credit: Frode Jacobsen, Shutterstock


In Conclusion

It’s not a documented phenomenon for camels to go out of their way to consume snakes as a food source, although it can happen.

Most of the time, if a camel consumes a snake, it’s because it has been force-fed the snake in a mistaken attempt at curing an illness. Camels experiencing symptoms of illness will benefit from veterinary care just as much as any other domestic animal.

It’s important to not further perpetuate the myth that force-feeding venomous snakes to camels provides any type of medical benefit to them.

Featured Image Credit: Amanda Guercio, Shutterstock