Do Camels Eat Cacti?

Camels, the iconic ships of the desert, have long been symbols of survival against all odds. Their legendary resilience in some of the harshest conditions on earth is truly extraordinary. But have you ever wondered what sustains these remarkable creatures in the arid, seemingly lifeless desert landscapes?

A surprising part of their diet is something you may not expect: cacti. But how can this be? Is it possible that the sharp thorns don’t harm them?

Let’s venture into the sand dunes and unearth the surprising truths about camels and their extraordinary dietary habits.

Do Camels Eat Cacti?

Camels can eat cactus. The papillae that line a camel’s mouth protect its delicate mucous membranes from the sharp spines of cactus and guide food down the animal’s throat and into its stomach.

The papillae are in the form of rigid ‘wiggly fingers’ which helps the camel avoid any damages in its mouth. Because of their evolutionary history, camels are able to eat cacti despite the agony they cause.

They can rotate the cactus so that they consume the thorns vertically rather than horizontally. Camels have the digestive capacity to digest cactus, although ingesting the prickly plants can be harmful to them.

However, in order to get to the green, meaty bits, they typically prefer to suffer through the agony and discomfort. In addition to grasses and twigs, bushes, herbs, leaves, grains, and oats, camels can eat a wide variety of other desert vegetation.

In the vast expanses of desert, food sources can be scarce. Yet, the resilient camel finds sustenance where others would see none. Yes, camels can and do eat cacti. Their specialized mouths, lined with leathery papillae, allow them to navigate around the thorns of a cactus and ingest the moisture-rich flesh beneath.

Camels Can Eat Cacti

Armed with their incredible adaptation, camels are able to chew and swallow cacti, including the prickly spines. Their mouths and throats are lined with papillae, toughened protrusions that guide the food in one direction – straight down into the stomach, preventing damage from the cacti’s sharp spines.

Adaptation: From Pain to Gain

Evolution has gifted camels with a stoic endurance. They bear the temporary discomfort of the spines for the nutritional benefits that the cacti offer. The ingested cacti provide camels with a rich source of hydration and nutrients, essential for survival in the nutrient-scarce desert.

Swallowing Thorns: The Camel Way

An additional safeguard for camels is their unique method of swallowing. They orient the thorns vertically, reducing the chances of the needles getting stuck in their throats or causing harm during ingestion.

Other Animals That Eat Cacti

Camels are not the only desert dwellers to adapt to the seemingly inhospitable cacti. Animals like jackrabbits, tortoises, and iguanas have also developed mechanisms to consume cacti, each in their unique ways, reinforcing the fascinating adaptations in the animal kingdom to overcome harsh environmental challenges.

Camels’ Omnivorous Desert Buffet

In the arid desert landscape, camels are not fussy eaters. These robust herbivores consume a wide range of desert plants, including grasses, twigs, shrubs, herbs, and leaves, and occasionally, parts of trees. Their varied diet enables them to draw nutrition from an array of sources, enhancing their chances of survival in the tough desert environment.

How Do Camels Eat Cacti?

The seemingly painful act of cactus consumption by camels is a wonder of natural adaptation. The lining of papillae in their mouths, their circular chewing motion, and the careful orientation of the thorns all work in unison to minimize potential harm. While it can undoubtedly be uncomfortable for the camel, these physiological features make the process bearable and beneficial.


From the vast, windswept dunes of the Sahara to the harsh Arabian deserts, camels reign supreme, their survival testament to their remarkable adaptations. Their ability to eat cacti, bear the pain, and extract vital nutrients from these prickly desert plants is a testament to the wonders of nature and the indomitable will to survive. Their dietary habits are a testament to their resilience, proving that even in the most unforgiving environments, life finds a way. Camels, along with other desert animals, showcase the incredible adaptability of life in the face of adversity, reminding us of the amazing resilience of nature.

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