Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Hooshta! You camels

Peter Hodge says the Arabic word ‘hooshta’, and suddenly four camels drop to their knees.

RHIANNON GAVALAKIS April 24, 2014 3:01am

Camel training with Dookie Trainer Peter Hodge.

Peter Hodge says the Arabic word ‘hooshta’, and suddenly four camels drop to their knees.

Training camels takes time and patience, and Mr Hodge has both.

He said camels were affectionate, likening them to ‘‘eight feet tall, 800kg dogs’’.

Instead of a kennel, he has a special shed on his property near Dookie to shelter his prized 14-camel herd during wet weather.

Mr Hodge has found there is nothing sadder than a wet camel.

The seasoned camel trainer said the desert animals looked forlorn when they were wet, because they were supposed to be dry.

‘‘They handle the Goulburn Valley climate okay, because there isn’t too much rain,’’ he said.

‘‘In the desert they have short hair, but here they grow hair up to three inches longer during winter.’’

The camels are not simply there to look at; Mr Hodge hires them out for fun rides, festivals and exhibitions, and has also dabbled in camel racing.

‘‘I was a jockey at the start, until I realised they run a lot faster with smaller girls riding them,’’ he said.

His camel Roman Ruma Ruma won the prized Alice Springs Cup last July.

Mr Hodge will share his three decades of experience with camels at a training seminar this weekend.

‘‘There are quite a lot of camels sold at the Echuca Horse Sales, and people ring up all the time asking what to feed them and how to drench them,’’ he said.

‘‘People buy them and they don’t know how to look after them.

‘‘They die because they come from the desert to a different climate here with different grass — you need to know how to look after them.’’

He said they were prone to a condition known as staggers, which makes them appear drunk — and it was important to have knowledge of such ailments.

They mainly eat lucerne, but were also given salt blocks to mimic their diet in the desert.

Mr Hodge said horse educating techniques were used to train camels, such as long reining and voice commands.

‘‘Camels are really intelligent, they learn really quickly but then they decide when they are going to do it,’’ he said.

‘‘There is a fair bit of coaxing and conning with them.

‘‘Some people will tell you they are smarter than horses, especially camel people.’’

For more information on the camel training weekend, phone Peter Hodge on 0428535321.

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