The return of warmer weather means the return of camel rides at the Creation Museum! This family-friendly activity, located just outside our petting zoo, features our two dromedary camels, CJ and Gomer. As you gear up for your visit to the museum, here are five interesting facts about these two unique creatures that you might not know!
One of the first things you might wonder when you meet CJ and Gomer is which one is which. Here’s how our zookeepers keep CJ and Gomer straight! CJ has a shorter and curlier coat than Gomer, and he’s a bit taller as well, standing seven feet at the shoulder. Gomer has a fluffier coat and it is a little bit darker.
If you notice one of our camels causing mischief, like reaching over the fence to tease Cletus (our zonkey), it is most likely CJ. When his shenanigans are about to get him in trouble, he starts to yawn! As our mischief-maker, he is always looking for ways to have a little fun! Since he is so playful, you might not want to stand against the fence with your back to him if you’re taking a picture with CJ and Gomer.
Wondering which one is giving you a ride during your visit to the Creation Museum? Gomer wears a blue saddle and blanket when he’s giving camel rides, while CJ’s are orange!
CJ and Gomer were uniquely designed to survive the harsh desert elements that are found in Northern Africa and Southeast Asia, where dromedary camels originate. Many people think that camels have hooves like a horse, but they actually have padded feet that are more like a dog’s. CJ and Gomer’s feet are designed to spread over the top of the ground to prevent them from sinking into the hot sand or cold snow, the way snowshoes work for humans. This feature is vital for camels to survive and thrive in the desert.
They also have callouses on their legs and a pedestal on their chest to keep from getting burned when they sit on top of sand. Their thick coats also prevent sunburn; that’s why our zookeepers don’t shave or trim CJ or Gomer’s coat. They let them naturally shed out.
Camels like CJ and Gomer have two sets of eyelashes and a nictitating membrane that covers each eye to prevent any sand damage. Additionally, they have long nostrils that they can close in a sandstorm. During this time, they breathe through their split lip, which helps to keep the sand out of their lungs.
Here is an interesting fact that you might wish you didn’t learn! Many people think that camels spit when they are upset. But they aren’t spitting—it’s actually a mixture of vomit and saliva that they project when they feel threatened. Yuck!
Thankfully, CJ and Gomer haven’t felt threatened enough by our guests to do this to any of them—just be sure to treat them respectfully and stay on their good side!
Camels ruminate, which means they regurgitate partially digested food and chew it again to aid in digestion. When camelids (including llamas and alpacas) are threatened or agitated, they can bring this rumen up and blow it out. This disgusts or distracts the source of their irritation because it smells really gross!
One of the most common questions our zookeepers get is, “Do they store water in their humps?” No, that is actually a myth! CJ and Gomer’s humps are made up of fat and cartilage. You can learn even more about our camel’s humps in “Do Camels Store Water in Their Humps?”
CJ and Gomer will eat pretty much anything, but their favorite snacks are apples, carrots, and lettuce. In fact, they can both eat a whole head of romaine lettuce at one time! While they are both open to eating anything, our zookeepers ask that you don’t feed them the petting zoo food that is available for you to purchase for our other animals. CJ and Gomer are both on a special diet, but you can feed them during our special Camel Encounters, which are offered daily (weather permitting).
During your time at the Creation Museum, don’t forget to head out to the petting zoo to meet CJ and Gomer in the petting zoo! And as you plan your visit, you might also consider purchasing one of our combo pass options, so you can make a trip to our sister attraction, the Ark Encounter. The Ararat Ridge Zoo, which is included with your ticket purchase at the Ark, features camel and donkey rides with a unique view of the life-size Noah’s Ark as your background.