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Army Deploys Double Humped Camels in Ladakh

Guardians of the Plateau, the Bactrian Camels join Indian Army in Ladakh for innovative Operations

December 11, 2023 By Lt. General P.C. Katoch (Retd) Photo(s): By DRDO, X / NorthernComd_IA
The Author is Former Director General of Information Systems and A Special Forces Veteran, Indian Army


Double Humped Camel for carrying load

On December 4, 2023, the Indian Army's Northern Command, responsible for guarding the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China in Eastern Ladakh and also the Line of Control (LOC) with Pakistan, said that the Bactrian double humped camels have been deployed in Eastern Ladakh. Northern Command posted on X, "Bactrian (Double Humped) camels are deployed in Eastern Ladakh as an innovative means for last mile delivery of critical load and mounted patrolling in sandy terrain of plateau. The utilisation of camels, generated employment for Awam, also paved the way for conservation of the fast dwindling population of double humped camels in Ladakh."

There is a history behind why double humped Bactrian camels are found only in the Union Territory of Ladakh in India and why Army is using them for the first timenow. The Himalayan mountain range and Tibetan plateau were formed because the Indian and Eurasian Plates began colliding 50 million years ago. The tectonic collision caused the rise of the Himalayas and also formed the 134-km log Pangong Tso Lake, which contains sea water. This lake is one-third in India and two-third in China although we are now left with only one solitary post on the north bank of Pangong Tso Lake. Evidence of the tectonic collision is also observed in the Nubra Valley of Ladakh where the sand dunes and over ground boulders are similar to those found at the bottom of the ocean. Much more of this is described in the book 'Pakistan's Criminal Folly in Kashmir' authored by Lt General (Dr) M.L. Chibber, former Northern Army Commander.

Indian Army's Northern Command has deployed Bactrian double humped camels in Eastern Ladakh for last-mile delivery and mounted patrolling in sandy terrains, providing an innovative solution for critical load transportation

This is also the reason for the presence of double humped Bactrian camels in India. The Bactrian camel is a native of the Gobi desert spread across Mongolia, China, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and also parts of Afghanistan. The humps of Bactrian camels are plump and pliable. In the late winter when pastures are scanty, the humps collapse. Their skull bone is comparatively shorter and wider than a dromedary camel.


The double humped camels were the heavy load carriers of traders along the ancient Silk Route. However, with the closure of the route in 1950s and introduction of modern transport facilities, these camels lost attention and were reduced as stray animals, roaming the Nubra Valley and surviving on shrubs. A camel breeding farm was established in the Nubra Valley in the late 1990s to save them from extinction as their population was hovering around 64. Interestingly, the Air Force Station at Thoise in the Nubra Valley adopted a double humped camel as a mascot in 1999.

In 2022, the Indian Army initiated a pilot project to introduce double humped camels for patrolling the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and checking intrusions.

Intervention by the Animal Husbandry Department of Ladakh has seen growth in the number of double humped camels, which has now risen to 298. The largest population of such camels is in the Hunder village followed by Sumoor, Diskit and Tigger where these camels have become a tourist attraction. The Department is running a farm for research studies on Bactrian camels at Chushot Village in Leh Tehsil. With the opening of tourism north of the Khardung La Pass, locals have begun breeding double humped camels for the money they earn from tourists riding these animals and from sand dune safaris in the Nubra Valley. The charge for riding a Bactrian camel is 180 per 15 minutes and for photography 50. The Department is also working on the wool of Bactrian camels to create income for the breeders during the off season of tourism. The breeders are encouraged to manufacture products from camel wool by forming self-help groups.

In 2022, the Army launched a pilot project to introduce the double humped camels for patrolling the LAC and to check intrusions. The Army had acquired four double humped camels for training and their number has increased with the birth of more calves in the area. Two single humped camels were also acquired from Bikaner to check their utility. The Army has trained the double humped camels not only to patrol the LAC but also to carry heavy loads of ammunition, rations and other supplies in the inhospitable terrain. The double humped camel can survive even in the harsh winter when the temperature dips to minus 40 degrees Celsius in many areas of Ladakh.

Bactrian camels can carry a load of about 170 kg at a height of 17,000 feet in Eastern Ladakh, showcasing their utility in the high-altitude terrain

The media reports mention that before inducting the Bactrian camels for carrying military loads, the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) at Leh conducted research on the double humped camels and found that they can carry a load of about 170 kg at a height of 17,000 in the Eastern Ladakh region. However, the Army would have reached such a conclusion on its own during trials. It is well known that the Bactrian camel can carry five times more load than the local ponies of Ladakh.

Looking at the Chinese intentions, the India-China standoff along the LAC since June 2020 is becoming more or less a permanent feature. Introduction of the double humped camels, in whatever small numbers (in addition to snowmobiles, drones and helicopters), would benefit the foot soldiers in patrolling and transporting critical items and loads in the inhospitable high altitude terrain of Ladakh.