Ever been curious about camels? We spoke with Ryan Henning, owner of America’s Show Camels, Inc. about his camels, the events they participate in, and how he uses Absorbine® products to care for them.
You swear by ShowSheen® for your horse, and maybe you even use it on your dog, but have you ever considered using it on a camel?!? Ryan Henning is the owner of America’s Show Camels, Inc., a company that showcases rare breeds of Dromedary camels across the U.S. Ryan’s camels participate in parades, circuses, fairs, festivals, and even movies and TV! We were very excited to hear from Ryan that he uses Absorbine® products to care for his camels. Read on to learn more about Ryan and America’s Show Camels, Inc., including common camel misconceptions, camel training, and how camels aren’t so different from horses.
Curious About Camels:
Absorbine®: How many camels do you have and how did you build your herd?
Ryan: The Ocala, FL area is home to our herd of 19 camels. All of our camels are bottle raised and have been around people their entire life. What really makes us unique is that we specialize in showcasing the most rare breed of Dromedary camel (one humped camel), the spotted camel. Our camels are black and white spotted with beautiful blue eyes. This breed is originally from the Canary Islands, off the coast of North Africa. There are about 100 here in the U.S. and 1,000 in the entire world. We are the only company right now that is showcasing this rare breed and introducing it to the public at fair venues. We also have one of the largest groups of snow-white camels in the U.S.
Absorbine®: Can you educate us about the different species of camels?
Ryan: The one-humped camel is the Dromedary camel and the two-humped camel is called the Bactrian camel. The Dromedary camel has three different color breeds; brown, white, and spotted. The Bactrian camel only has white and brown breeds.
Absorbine®: Camels are often viewed as not being the most personable of animals. What common misconceptions about camels would you like to correct?
Ryan: The most popular comment we hear from people walking by our exhibit is “watch out, the camels are going to spit at you”. First of all, the Dromedary camels that we have do not spit. The Bactrian camels do spit, like a llama or an alpaca. People also ask us about what they store in their hump(s). The general myth is that camels store water in their hump(s) and that is why they can go a long time without drinking. They actually store fat in their hump(s), which they can metabolize and convert into water when it is not available in their natural habitat. Since our camels are domestically born and raised, they have never had to go without water and always have access to fresh, clean water. A lot of people think they are ornery or moody, and some can be, just like people, but most are quite affectionate.
Absorbine®: What are some of the most exciting events you and your camels have participated in? Have your camels been in any movies that you can name?
Ryan: I’ve worked closely with some of the camels that were in The Scorpion King, who belonged to a close friend of the family. I’d say the most exciting events we do are in the fair industry, because we get so much interaction with the public and are able to answer questions and really showcase these animals up close. It’s all very transparent: people can see how we care for the camels, grooming, washing, and handling. Educating people and expanding their understanding of camels is really what’s important to us.
Absorbine®: What is the training process for preparing a camel to perform in a show? What tricks can they do?
Ryan: Lots and lots of reward and repetition. Lots of treats! Camels are extremely intelligent creatures. Ours respond to about 40 verbal commands in German, French, and English. Really since day one we are interacting with them and building that relationship. It’s a relationship built off of mutual trust, respect, and understanding. It’s because of this bond and trust that the camels look to us for support and direction. Everything that you see the camels do in the show, regardless of the environment, is a natural behavior, just one that has been associated with a word through training.
Absorbine®: How is a camel ride different from a pony ride? Where does the saddle go? What about the hump(s)?
Ryan: Camels are extremely strong animals and can weigh close to 2,000 pounds, so they can hold a lot of weight. An individual rider can sit on top of the hump, in front of the hump, or behind the hump. We use an industrial saddle and you can put up to five or six kids on a camel’s back. We really take into consideration the fact that our camels need time to socialize and relax, so we only give camel rides for short periods with breaks in between. A camel’s gait is very different from that of a horse; it’s a swaying gait. It almost feels like riding on a ship on the ocean, which is why they are often known as the “ships of the desert”.
Absorbine®: How do you use Absorbine® products to care for your camels?
Ryan: We use ShowSheen® on them three or four times daily when we are brushing them prior to each show performance, and also during daily grooming. We go through a lot of ShowSheen®! We also use a lot of UltraShield® Ex flyspray, especially during Florida summers. Really any product you would use on a horse we use on our camels, because there are not a lot of camel specific products out there. We believe in providing the highest standard of care for our animal family members.
Absorbine®: How is caring for camels similar to caring for horses?
Ryan: It’s 24/7 care. Both are domesticated animals. Camels are similar to horses in their diet. They eat hay and grains just like a horse. Camels like alfalfa hay, or a good timothy hay, and they also eat sweet feeds. They love apples and carrots, sugar cubes, and apple wafer cookies. We use a lot of horse products to care for the camels as well, like Showsheen® 2-in-1 Shampoo & Conditioner for bathing, which is an every day routine. Just like horses, camels shed their thick winter coats, so we are always grooming them multiple times a day in the spring.
Absorbine®: Are there any final thoughts that you would like to share with us?
Ryan: We are launching the world premiere of Camel Kingdom, a new fair exhibit that offers the unique opportunity to view all of our camels on display. We offer performances throughout the day where we give an educational talk, demonstrate some of the natural behaviors of camels and show how intelligent they are. We also bring out some bottle babies and feed them. The show is about 30 minutes and really gives the audience a chance to experience the camels in a new way. Camel Kingdom will be at the Big E in Springfield from September 15th through October 1st.