Get the latest from TODAY
You wouldn't be alone if you've watched this video of a young woman racing a camel — quite a few times.
And you've likely wondered: Who is the girl running through the desert with this most unusual pet?
Alex Komechak has loved animals her entire life, but it wasn’t until she moved from the Midwest to Arizona at 19 that she was able to begin living her dream of raising camels and other animals. Shortly after arriving in Arizona, Komechak purchased some land and, that same day, purchased her first newborn Dromedary (or Arabian) camel, who she named Baby. “It didn't take too long after meeting him for me to know what I wanted to do: Raise, breed and train camels with a long term goal of having a farm open to the public with an education center where students can come and learn more about animals and be inspired by nature like I was as a child,” Komechak told TODAY.com.
Komechack, who is currently in school to be an elementary school teacher and has rehabilitated all kinds of wildlife, now has nine animals: two Dromedary camels, Baby and Nessie (who appears in the video); five rescue dogs (a German Shepherd, an Australian Shepherd mix, two Borzoi, and a young Doberman Pinscher, a Von der Decken's Hornbill, and a Robovorski's hamster. But, of course, it’s the camels that get — and require — the most attention.
“They're very demanding and there's not one day that you can slack off or ignore them,” Komechak said, although it’s certainly easier now than when Baby and Nessie were calves and required proper bottle feeding every two hours, around the clock. “This is something I'm going to be doing every day for the rest of my life and it's a huge commitment. If I'm going somewhere or planning to do something I have to think, ‘But whose going to take care of my camels?’ It might be easy to find someone to come to your house to watch your dogs, but it's not so easy with camels.”
The joy these Dromedaries bring to Komechak make all the work worthwhile, though. “I feel very honored to be able to share my life with these wonderful animals. Nessie and Baby are both very sweet and very clever. Baby lays down on the ground, which is called cushing, just by saying the word to him. And Nessie knows to stand by me and wait until I say, ‘Go!’ before we run. They're both trained like this with many different vocal commands.”
Nessie’s been racing — and beating — Komechak from the very beginning. “She beat me right away!” she says. “I think it was only a few days after I got her, when we started running together in the fields behind my house. Even though she only weighed about a hundred pounds and was a skinny little hump-less thing, she was very fast. In school I ran in track for years, but even at two weeks old Nessie was beating me. They're actually really fast, despite their awkward appearance. Camels can easily run 25 mph and a trained fit racing camel can reach 40 mph.”
When not running or eating, Baby and Nessie both love to play — in fact, this winter, Komechak plans to teach them to fetch. “Baby loves to carry around orange plastic traffic cones and stick them up in tree branches. Nessie likes kicking and going after balls.”
Keep an eye on her Camels and Friends YouTube channel for more videos.
Want to learn more about Komechak and the animals? She regularly posts pictures, videos and news on her blog, Camels and Friends.