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The Cariboo Camels
By Claire E. Johnson
1 The Cariboo Wagon Road was completed in 1865. Before, this route to the gold fields in the interior of British Columbia was little more than a dangerous footpath. All food and supplies needed in the Cariboo arrived on pack animals. This way of transporting supplies was very expensive. Frank Laumeister, a packer and outfitter in Victoria, had the amazing idea to use camels to carry loads. He reasoned that camels would be the perfect pack animal. They could carry heavier loads than other animals. They were also used to extreme environments. They could go farther and longer without food or water. In 1862, twenty-one Bactrian camels, bought in the United States, arrived in Yale to begin their ill-fated adventures in British Columbia.
2 Laumeister's experiment did not last long. Camels found the rocky terrain difficult for their feet. Even special boots designed to protect the camels' feet did not prevent them from suffering injuries. Camels proved to have difficult natures. They would kick, bite, or spit at anyone within their range. They could be as stubborn as any mule. The camels would eat almost anything in sight. The odor of the camels was offensive to other animals. The smelly camels made other pack animals afraid. Sometimes the smell made them run away or even fall to their death. Soon, Laumeister was forced to abandon his plans and his camel train.
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