How much do you know about llamas? Here are some interesting facts to expand your knowledge and appreciation of these amazing creatures:
Llamas are members of the camelid family, and so are related to camels, alpacas, vicunas, and guanacos (vicunas and guanacos are wild, whereas llamas and alpacas have always been domesticated).
American Llamas came from the hills of South America, specifically, Bolivia, Chili, and Peru (Rojo is of Bolivian ancestry).
Baby llamas and alpacas are called crias (CREE-ahs), and weigh aprox. 20-22 lbs at birth.
Llamas almost always have single births, and the gestation period for a llama is 11 1/2 months.
A full-grown llama weighs about 300-350 pounds, and lives aprox. 20-25 years.
Llamas are very quiet animals. They communicate primarily with body language, and soft humming sounds. Male llamas make a “clucking” noise when they think a female is nearby, and a louder “alarm call” to alert the herd when they feel threatened.
Llamas only have teeth on the bottom in the front, the top is just a rubbery pallet. This makes it very safe when feeding a llama treats as they tend to take them with their soft lips! (They do have molars on top and bottom in the back to chew up their food.)
Llamas are often used as guard animals to protect sheep and goats from coyotes. One llama in the pasture will “bond” with the sheep or goats and charge a coyote head first to chase them away. If they catch the coyote, they will roll them with their head, and try to trample them with their front feet. Not all llamas make good guard animals, so make sure the seller will allow a return, or exchange, if the llama isn’t performing.
The llama’s large eyes can look different directions independently from one another, and can see far distances- they are always watching for predators. When petting a llama’s head, do not put your hand up in front of their eyes or they will jerk their head back, always reach around and come up from the back.
The soft padded foot of the llama makes them environmentally friendly and excellent companions for packing and day hikes. A llama that has been conditioned for packing can carry 80-100 pounds for 10 to 20 miles a day over rugged slopes at high altitudes.
Although there are saddles available for children (up to 60-80 lbs) to ride llamas, they do not have a spine like a horse that can support the weight of most adults. When used for packing, the weight is distributed on the “fat pads” on either side of the spine.
All camelids do “spit” as a means of defense, and to show dominance within the herd. This trait is often exploited in movies and television, and causes many people to be fearful of approaching llamas in a public setting. Although many llamas in pastures or petting zoos have not been socialized to behave themselves properly among humans, most of the llamas that are shown in parades, and at your local fairs, have been extensively trained by their handlers to not spit at people.
The luxurious hair of a llama has a hollow core,and so is lighter weight for the warmth it provides. Llama fiber can be spun to make beautiful clothing and blankets, and is hypo-allergenic. Most show llamas are shorn in the spring in a “barrel-cut” style to maintain their beauty for public events. This cut also helps to keep the llama cool during the warm summer months.
Llamas eat about one-third what a horse would eat. After grazing in the pasture most of the day, we usually give them a flake of local or eastern grass hay per animal (alfalfa hay is too rich for a llama’s stomach). We also have a sandy “free-choice” mineral supplement available which provides the additional selinium and other vitamins essential to maintaining good health.
Llamas are “communal poopers”- they all tend to eliminate in the same location, which is very helpful when walking in the pasture! Their droppings look like black jelly beans, and because llamas have three chambers in their stomach, their food is very well-digested and makes excellent fertilizer for all types of plants.
Llamas are very intelligent and can be trained using a “click and reward” system to learn many fun tricks, and also respond to verbal cues. A full-grown llama can easily pull a cart with two adults. Llama carts have been used for many special occasions, such as weddings, military retirements, and parades.
Show llamas are trained for competition in wool and conformation classes, as well as a variety of performance and obstacle course classes. Many people travel the country with their llamas for these competitions to increase their value, and for breeding.