Shifting camel cultures

This article on Camel cultures (specifically in India and Iran) has just been published in Seminar (issue 695):

Shifting camel cultures, Ilse Köhler-Rollefson, in Seminar #695 “Livestock Landscapes: a symposium on how domesticated animals shape our lives”, July 2017 (download as PDF)

Dr. Ilse Köhler-Rollefson is project coordinator at the League for Pastoral Peoples and Endogenous Livestock Development and describes in this article her experience in Iran, including a meeting of UNICAMEL organised with the help of Cenesta.

Nomad girl in Iran


A tall and gaunt man in his fifties, with a gentle but somewhat resigned demeanour, Muhammed Rabii lamented that Iranian camel culture had totally changed since his childhood. ‘We never ate camel meat earlier and my father refused to take it until the end of his days. We believed that killing a camel would make a person cruel. And we never used camel wool to weave rugs, only garments, because we thought it disrespectful to the camel to step on its hair with our feet. But now camel breeding is all about meat production.’


The traditional knowledge of Mr. Rabii and his camel breeding colleagues – the result of astute observations on the relationship between camels and plants over generations – is supported by bona fide scientific research. Already in the 1960s, zoologist Hilde Gauthier Pilters studied the ecology of camels in the Sahara and, in a book published by the University of Chicago Press, came to the conclusion that their grazing behaviour does not cause damage to desert vegetation, but instead nurtures the growth of its plants.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.