Friday, September 17, 2010


Llamas come in many colors! (Image Source)

Llamas (Lama glama) are camelids that were domesticated 4,000-5,000 years ago in the Andes Mountains of South America. They are one of two members of the genus Lama, the other being their wild counterpart, the Guanaco (Lama guanicoe). Llamas are only found in their domesticated form, and there are over 7 million of them in South America, and about 100,000 in North America. Llames come in a wide variety of colors, and they stand 5-6 feet tall at the head and weigh between 250 and 400lbs.

Llamas were domesticated to serve many functions. They are pack animals, they provide meat, and they have thick wool and hides to be used for clothing and shelter. Llamas were, and still are, used to carry loads over difficult terrain. Their two-toed feet give them remarkable sure-footedness and they can carry 20-30% of their body weight. In recent years Llamas have also be utilized as livestock guardians.

Mother and Cria (Image Source)
Another benefit to pack-Llamas is that they require very little water and can subsist off of a variety of different plant materials. They also have excrement that not only attracts few flies, but can also be burnt for fuel. Llama wool is warm and lightweight, but has no commercial market, and is not as fine at that of Alpaca or Vicuna.

Female llamas have an interesting breeding cycle. They do not go into heat as many other mammals do. Rather, ovulation is induced by the act of mating itself. The gestation period is 350 days, and 1 baby (Cria) is born at a time, typically during the morning.

Llamas are described as being very social, yet independent animals. They are, in most cases, intelligent and easy to train. Llamas do spit! But this behavior is most often a result of a perceived threat, or to establish an order within the herd.

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