Saudi camel men
Saudi men stand next to camels as they participate in King Abdulaziz Camel Festival Faisal Nasser

Saudi Arabian camel herders are going to extraordinary lengths to make sure they have the best-looking animals in the business by injecting them with Botox to make them more 'handsome'.

The widespread practice has resulted in over a dozen expulsions from a recent camel beauty contest, Reuters reports. The unscrupulous entrants were thrown out of the competition by suspicious authorities who have pledged a crackdown on the growing practice.

"Camels that are found with drugs in the lips, shaved, dyed in any parts of the body, or with changes from natural form are not allowed [sic]," authorities warned last year.

The beauty contest is part of the King Abdulaziz festival taking place outside the Saudi capital this month, with hundreds of thousands of visitors expected to attend. The month-long festival is big business and millions of dollars are expected to change hands during the course of the event.

Prize money of 213 million riyals (£4m) has been made available to those entering their animals into races which attract thousands of spectators. Auctions are also scheduled later this month and the most attractive animals can command high prices.

"The camel, is a symbol of Saudi Arabia. We used to preserve it out of necessity, now we preserve it as a pastime," said chief judge Fawzan al-Madi.

Camels are especially revered by members of the nation's Bedouin tribes. These often nomadic desert people have used camels for generations of trade and commerce.

Authorities in the kingdom are keen to emphasise this aspect of Saudi culture as they embark on major social reforms in the country. Women are now able to attend musical and sporting events, while a widely-criticised ban on female drivers will finally be lifted later this year. The modernising drive is part of plans to diversify the country's economy which has grown rich on its reserves of crude oil.

"The vision is for the (festival) to become a global, pioneering forum for all classes of people to come for entertainment, knowledge and competition." Fahd al-Semmari, a Camel Club board member said.

300,000 people have made the 90 minute trip from the Saudi capital to the festival, an increase from the same point last year.