Training Camels

The rinderpest was decimating the oxen population in the late 1800’s. To overcome the lack of oxen, camels which had been proven to be immune to the rinderpest, were imported. These were to be trained at the Uitvlugt Forestry Station.

in February 1897, 10 one-humped camels arrived from Tenerife on the Canary Islands. Eight of these were kept and trained in the Uitvlugt Forestry Station while the other two were sent to Kimberley. In 1898 a second supply of camels from the Canary Islands arrived at Uitvlugt. Further camels were imported from Egypt and Sudan. From time-to-time Bedouin drivers arrived with the camels.

The camel stable was located next to the Dutch gable Uitvlugt homestead which, once Pinelands was established, was converted into a garage by the owner of the adjacent property. The training of the camels took place on the abandoned brickfields in the area of the Oval. However, evidence of camels has not been restricted to this area of Pinelands and camel bones have been excavated at both the area around Bontheuwel and Central Square. Hillrise was originally named Kameelbult due to the bones found during road works.

The camels trained at Uitvlugt were destined for other parts of Southern Africa, although is recorded that the British military camp on the border of Uitvlugt experimented with the use of camels. Some camels were sent to the Kalahari for use by the Police. The initial transfers were delayed due to female camels being pregnant.  These camels were stationed at Witdraai which also became a breeding station. The Cape Mounted Police formed a camel corps and initially obtained 13 Uitvlugt camels. 

At the end of the 1800s Albert Jackson, a trader from Upington, wrote to Cecil John Rhodes requesting Uitvlugt camels for a mail service. The first four camel cows were sent to Zwart Modder in June 1899 but were quickly moved to Mier to prevent them being captured by Boer war forces. The postal service was disbanded in 1914 mainly due to the increased weight of the mail. Long after the service was discontinued, children in the area could be seen riding to school on these camels.

In 1901, the Forest Conservator at Uitvlugt requested that the camels be sent to Waddes Kraal as they were destroying the pines and wattles. However, he was told that the camels would be sent to Botswana after the Boer War. In 1902 the initial supply of camels from Uitvlugt to Botswana consisted of one male, 4 females and two offspring. They were used for police patrols until the early 1970s and were retained until 2001 when they had about two hundred camels.

Camel at the Cape (site unknown)