Stories of an Alpha Male Camel with morality

By Mohamed El-Gasmi | March 20th, 2019   4 Comments
Alpha Male Camels walking with nomads

This is Lghaycha

I always remember what an old nomad once taught me about the importance of wildlife and its effect on the human mind and how it helps us to perceive the world perfectly in parallel with both nature and animals. That’s why spending time with the Alpha Male camel was a chance for me to discover many secrets about this special camel.

alpha camel male 1To dominate a huge pack of 100 + camels by himself, the alpha camel needs far more than just being a biological male.

More than once, he has amazed me with his strong personality and distinctive behaviour.

Whenever I’ve seen him doing a particular thing, I always come later to the conclusion that there has been a necessity behind behaving that certain way.

By now, Lghaycha has more than 60 wives and always stands by them. He keeps an eye on everybody in his big family, all the females and their babies are protected because he is always there for them. More than everything a normal animal male can offer, he also provides the pack with a sense of confidence to stay all together and never get separated. Symbolically, he represents unity and power.

But unlike the rest of the male camels my family own, his body is massive and full of muscles and that’s why he won the right to rule the pack twice, last year and this year.

He was truly born to rule a kingdom of camels without any competition. He kicked out two other big  males from the pack at the end of the last October when the season of courtship began .

alpha camel male 3 Walking with Nomads
Me holding the two losers in one of our family migrations

Everything has a story and this is the Alpha, Lghaycha’s story:

A few years ago there was so much dryness in M’hamid Sahara and Lghaycha, at that time, was a little camel who was driven by the lack of food to cross the border with his mum to the Algerian Sahara.

Together Lghaycha and his mum kept wandering in the Algerian Sahara and probably forget the way back home or got lost there. My family thought they had been stolen by thieves as this what sometimes happens when camels never return or are not seen for a long time.

Six years later, he returned and the little Lghaycha was not a little one anymore. He had become a massive camel. The family only realised that it  was him because of his white nose and our family symbol on his neck. We don’t know what happened to his mum but she could not get back home the same like him, because when Lghaycha arrived, he was alone.

What changed in Lghaycha?

My uncle Aado was the one who collected him after he heard that some nomads had seen him nearby the border. My uncle noticed that Lghaycha have been trained due to the ring in his nose and the saddle marks on his hump. We knew that someone from the nomadic tribes that live in Algeria had found him and kept him for riding and he had escaped and found his way back home.

Now, two years have passed since his return from the unknown of six years lost. The family were so happy with his return and they quickly integrated him into the pack.

Since his return, he has won the respect of that pack and has now become the Alpha Male.

The Alpha and his pack:

Me and Lghaycha spent a lot of time together during the spring of last year and more than two months this winter and through our engagement I noticed that he has a lot of morals that we humans might not have. I learnt that he never lets his pack enter or get close to a spot where another alpha is herding his pack. This is because he knows such an act will bring trouble. He usually stands between the two packs and never lets them mix.

alpha camel male 4 Waking with Nomads

While Lghaycha is into the courtship season, he never allows other males to get inside his pack, he is forever ready to fight till the end as most of camels males are if they don’t find somebody to stop them while they are fighting.

I remember one time, when two young camel females that belonged to another alpha that was herding around, entered his pack. He directly walked towards them and I thought at the beginning that he will take them over and make them part of his pack, but he kicked them out and even tried to bite them to make them go. What I understood from this action was that he respected what was his and what was not.

Lghaycha can distinguish his females from another Alpha’s females:

When I was herding the pack together with the alpha in the courtship season, I knew in my  heart that not one single camel from the pack would go missing. Each day when the sun went down, he walked away to bring the camels we left behind us. For this reason, nomads are more comfortable when they herd together with their alphas. But unlike other domesticated animals, like goats and sheep, which require you to keep an eye on all of them, the alpha camel will help you with that.

A weird fact about Alphas camels:

We nomads know that camels know their mothers even if years passed and even when they become mature they can distinguish her from others. But this is not what is weird. The weirdness is that Alpha camels never mate with their mothers (unlike most other animals who don’t make this distinction). My Grandfather told me that he heard about that some people who did an experiment on an alpha and the results were unbelievable. They say that some men brought the mother of an alpha but they cleaned her and coloured her and disguised her smell with the urine of another female. When she no longer looked or smelt like his mother they put her with the alpha male and he mated with her. When the colour and smell wore off and he realised that it was actually his own mother, he stopped mating with all females and  refused to eat for many days until he dies. What I understood from this story is that the camel punished itself for what it did. It drove itself to death for the unacceptable act which was against its nature.

alpha camel male 5 Walking with Nomads

When did the Alpha Llghaycha really get my respect?

I just remember herding the camel pack together with the Alpha Lghaycha in the middle of a valley. He was behaving weird as he was all the time pushing the pack to move to a different direction. He clearly didn’t want to stay in that valley. But I did, so I took the rope and tied his foot to slow his speed so that he will let the pack graze.

After some time there came this young camel male who entered the side of pack secretly and at that moment I knew why the Alpha was behaving weird, it was because of this competitor. The Alpha raised his head and walked strictly toward the camel. The young camel did not escape directly but once the alpha got closer he ran. At the beginning I thought that the alpha would not chase but on the contrary, the alpha kept running behind crazily without stopping even if he was tied. He was even about to catch him but the alpha turned back to his pack and let the young camel go.

But this is not the end of the story because later during the day the young camel came back again and this time was more brave because he thought that Lghaycha was slow. However, I was just setting him free because I saw that when he had run with rope on his feet it had made them bleed. Lghaycha was behaving like he didn’t care about the young male who was disturbing his females. But at the same time he was trying to get closer. Then, he started running and this time he was so fast like a rabbit. For a second I doubted it was our Alpha because he is very big and heavy in comparison to the young camel. After less than a minute, he reached the young male and hit him with his shoulder after he bit him on his front foot. The young male fell down and Lghaycha jumped on him and bit it him on his head and put his chest on the neck of the young male. The young one was screaming and I though by the time I reached them I would find the young male dead, but Lghaycha behaved mercifully and set him free even though he was capable of killing him. I was surprised that the young male was hardly hurt. He was really wise and merciful and for me it was a moment of inspiration, because I think of all the wars around the world and how people kill each other but these animals have a mercy toward others.

How faithful is the camel pack to the Alpha?

Last spring, we moved to the mountain because of a lack of grass in the valley. I went together with my uncle and we were accompanied by our family’s pack of camels but on our way to our destination, the Alpha ate some kind of poisoned plant that stopped him from peeing. For a whole day the Alpha couldn’t move anywhere and he was lying on the ground in pain. We tried to take the pack to a close place where they could graze because they were starving but we were surprised that none of them responded or wanted to leave the Alpha camel. We kept trying to separate them from the Alpha but they would run back towards him again and again. I was even smiling when I saw some baby camels sleep next to him and all the time the elder females were coming to smell him and communicate with him. At that time, I realised just how faithful they were to the Alpha Lghaycha. I think he had gained their respect, not just because he is physically strong but because he keeps them all together and they know if they lose him they will separate.

alpha camel male 6 Walking with Nomads

And even we nomads know if we bring another alpha in case Lghaycha dies, the pack will get separated because at the beginning of every season they have to stick to only one Alpha. All of that day the pack kept supporting him till he rose up again.

For many people animals are just animals and they behave following their instincts and nothing else. But for us nomads, they are more than that. We believe that they have different personalities the same way that humans have. And based on this belief we learnt how to live in harmony with them and survive in the Sahara.

alpha camel male 7 Walking with nomads

Stories of an Alpha Male Camel richly and evocative written by Mohamed. Come on a trek with us to hear wonderful nomad stories, and learn about this, virtually extinct, way of life. Contact us to discuss your trek.

4 thoughts on “Stories of an Alpha Male Camel with morality

  1. Loved this writing, thanks. The behaviour of animals is indeed so interesting, and I love camels. There is something very ancient and serenely dignified in them.

    1. Thank you for your comment Harriet, yes in the desert we always study the behaviour of animals and we know our camels like people

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