Camel Conundrum Solved: The final word?

camel2Thanks for all your emails offering solutions to last week’s Camel Conundrum. There were far too many responses to quote from everyone’s messages, but read on for a couple of extracts. But first, in other Camel news, Anthony Capstick emailed to say:

I lived in Western Sudan for a while and the best racing camels are bred there – used for racing in Saudi Arabia. The Rashida tribe breed them, and like a guy said to me, everyone knows the best racing camels come from Sudan!

camel_limoWe’ve yet to get a definitive answer on whether you can still ride camels in Somerset c/o the Bridgwater Camel Company but we did hear from Bruce Wright of North Yorkshire’s who says:

You can walk with pack llamas (llamas are one form of South American camel); To get an idea of how to really enjoy wine & champagne in the countryside, take a look on our Gallery pages

… but then he would say that, as they’re in the business of selling llama treks! Special thanks also to Tony Priest who emailed me the camelly photo to the left of this text, which he took in a car hire office in Tunisia last month.

And now without further ado, onto the conundrum itself. The most concise solution comes from Roger Horsgood, who says

50%, one third and one ninth don’t add up to one – which is why adding one camel in then removing the allocations leaves one over again.

But you may remember that at school, we were always encouraged to show our working, so here’s some extra detail from Russell Baum, who explains

The trick is that one half plus one third plus one ninth does NOT equal one.
In fact it equals 8.5 ninths (or seventeen eighteenths).

In order to split the camels in the ratios provided with only 17 camels, one 18th (a hump) would have to have been left behind.
By increasing the number of camels the sons can easily take their correct proportions of an incorrect value.

What has happened is that each brother has taken a larger proportion of their father’s camels than he said they should.

Son 1 now has 9 camels out of 17, (52.9%) which is clearly more than 9 out of 18 (50%).
Son 2 has 6 which is actually 35.3% instead of the 33.3% his father wanted him to have.
Son 3 has 11.8% instead of 11.1%.
The leftover bit has now gone.

And the moral is: Write a proper will and get some tax planning advice and you might be able to stop a proportion of your estate from going to the camel tax man!

But the final word goes to Rob Wilson, who found this site which not only solves the conundrum but fills in a bit of back-story:
>> The Riddle of the Vanishing Camel solved.


6 Responses to “Camel Conundrum Solved: The final word?”

  1. Claire Says:


    I knew this allready!(shucks)

    I think you might want to thank Ian Stewart for the answer. But I will thank Rob and Miles too for refering to it.


  2. Claire Says:

    There is more about Ian Stewarts work (and myself) at

    Just incase you were interested any further.


  3. Miles Says:

    Thanks Claire. I’ve taken a quick look around the site, but err, who is Ian Stewart?


  4. Miles Says:

    Thanks Claire. I’ve taken a quick look around the site, but err, who is Ian Stewart?


  5. Claire Says:

    Hya Miles,

    Ian Stewart is the guy who does maths and geometry….”as a professor of mathematics and Gresham professor of Geometry at the University of Warwick. He serves as mathematics consultant to New Scientist and in 1995 received the Royal Society`s Michael Faraday medal for outstanding contributions to the public understanding of science.
    He has written or co-authored numerous books of popular mathematics, including Game, Set and Math; Fearful Symmetry; Does God Play Dice? and, most recently, Life’s Other Secret. He has also collaborated with Jack Cohen and Terry Pratchett to write The Science of Discworld.
    He presented the Royal Institution’s Christmas Lectures in 1997 (televised in January 1998).

    He scripted and presented the December 1992 BBC radio program Chaos! His appearances on British TV include the 1997 Christmas Lectures The Magical Maze, Country Tracks, Equinox programmes Chaos, Antichaos, and Great Little Numbers, The Late Show, Reality on the Rocks, Esther, The Bride of Frankenstein, Sex and the Scientists, The Numbers Game, and Six Experiments that Changed the World; and he has also appeared in Future File on the European Business News satellite channel.”

    A site called FTL about science news and related subjects appeared on the net (for no particular reason apart from, did we, Ian, Ian Stewart and another Ian, the three I’s, or the “The Tri-I’s”, and the editor, and who ever else and myself etc…) want to be part of a mag?

    We did.

    It was.

    Then at about slightly later, my site appeared on the net too.

    FTL finished. (there could be talks about having a new site for related subjects on the horizon)

    FTL was copied onto my site. The link that is linked from here is to my site with his work on it, on the FTL magazine (as a subsection).

    Because Ian was earlier a contributor to our old magazine called FTL which is now a subsection of my site, his work is seen as a result.

    My site carried on.

    Don’t worry, the confusion is universal.


  6. Claire Says:

    He wrote the article.


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