Monday, October 3, 2011

Camels in Montana

I have been working on a writing piece for the Montana Historical Society.  It is about using historic digitized newspapers in the classroom.  It is part of the Library of Congress Chronicling America Project.

Well today I was reading the Montana Post dated July 29, 1865.  The article talked about the camels being in Virginia City.  I then did a little more research and discovered Mary Ronan  had ridden one when she was a girl.  ( Girl from the Gulches: The Story of Mary Ronan by Ellen Baumler ).

The Bactrian camels made up the camel trains that hauled freight between the mining camps from 1865-1866.  The camels were well adapted to the Montana terrain and climate.  So why weren't they used longer?  They didn't have good social skills. The mules and oxen wouldn't go near them.  Passing was out of the question.

I not only learned about this nugget of information but I learned that fossilized remains of the Camelops hesternus are still found in Montana.  This animal made it's home in the Montana Lowlands before the ice-age.  Interestingly enough it is theorized that our modern day camels may have evolved from their Montana ancestors.

The Montana story of the camels comes full circle.  Al Deutsch owns a herd of Bactrian camels.  The herd lives outside of Fairfield, Montana off highway 89.  I want to go see them.

I should take my camel saddle to school.  I wonder if my students would know what it is?


  1. What a great way to model for your students. You are taking the passion for learning out of school and into the world. How cool to share this with us.

  2. Camels--who would have thought!! You own a camel saddle? Your students will be that much wiser if you share your information and saddle. I like your line "I want to go see them." You started with such interesting information and ended with desire!! Thanks--camels would have never crossed my mind today if it weren't for you!!!Unsociable--I can see that.

  3. I hope people click on the blue links in my post. If you missed them here are two I recommend.
    Big Sky Chronicles

    The fossilized info came from They were advertising the book Montana Moments:

  4. I would think that your students would love to see the saddle, and your story would be so inspirational to them, to see what they might discover! I hope you'll tell us what you do in class with this project. Terrific idea, and thanks for the interesting research.

  5. Wow, that is so interesting. And where did you get a camel saddle? Did I miss that explanation somewhere? Bringing it to class would be fun. Love to hear what they think it is.

  6. The fact that you have a camel saddle sounds like the beginning of another slice.

  7. Camels in Montana...who would have known??!! I'm also curious about that camel saddle - I believe there is another slice of life hiding in that one!

  8. If you had posed your title as a true or false question I wouldn't have guessed correctly. fascinating. I wonder what else interesting can you dig up while working for the Historical Society.

  9. Intriguing! I love learning new things too and this was a fun new piece of information! I bet the kids would love it -- your camel saddle and the information!

  10. I hoped you all clicked on the newspaper image. It is the actual article I read. I wanted to share the clipping. This was such a fun post to write. I was so delighted that everyone enjoyed it.


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