British Columbia

Historic B.C. camels inspire new North Vancouver statue

Statue made by artist Myfanwy MacLeod pays homage to the camels that once walked the B.C. Cariboo during the province's gold rush.

Statue pays homage to the camels that once walked the B.C. Cariboo during the province's gold rush

Lady the Camel defiantly stands on the corner of 13th Street and Lonsdale in North Vancouver. (Jon Hernandez/CBC)

The City of North Vancouver has a new resident.

The Lady is a two metre-tall statue of a camel and stands on the corner of 13th Street and Lonsdale where it gazes out towards the Burrard Inlet. The beast might be made out bronze, but it's inspired by a real camel that traversed the B.C. Cariboo more than 100 years ago.

"During the gold rush, [prospectors] imported camels to work as pack animals," said Myfanwy MacLeod, the artist behind the bronze statue.

MacLeod came across an iconic photo of a B.C. prospector riding a camel in the late 1800s. The camel in the photo, known as The Lady, was one of dozens of camels imported to the province through the Lower Mainland and served as the inspiration behind her sculpture.

"It was a very different image that I had of B.C. and the kind of animals and nature that we expect from this area."

Camels in the wild

MacLeod's piece is the latest piece of public art to be selected by the City of North Vancouver to reflect the region's cultural history.

Nearly two-dozen camel were shipped to B.C. through the Lower Mainland in 1862.

Archives suggest early settlers believed the camels could carry heavy supply loads over long distances, with minimal water — but they quickly found out their soft feet weren't suited for B.C.'s rocky terrain.

Myfanwy MacLeod stands next to the bronze statue of 'The Lady' — a piece that took her two years to complete. (Jon Hernandez/CBC)

Most of the camels died off but several others escaped captivity.

"Apparently, some of the camels didn't get along with the other animals, so they had to be put out to pasture," said McLeod. "They sort of escaped into the wild."

"[They] were running around in the forests of B.C. until they all died out."

McLeod says the last camels were spotted in the early 1900s. She hopes her sculpture will remind people of the long and often surprising history of B.C.'s wilderness.

"It's bringing attention to a story that people might not have been aware of ... but I also really like the idea of a camel sort of standing on the corner, looking as if she was about to cross the street."

'The Lady' is a tribute to a camel that once traversed the B.C. Cariboo region, but the bronze statue only features one hump as opposed to the original's two. (Jon Hernandez/CBC)


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