Llama

LlamaLlama — The llama (Lama glama) is a South American camelid, widely used as a pack animal by the Incas and other natives of the Andes mountains. In South America and parts of Central America llamas are still used for beasts of burden, fiber production and meat.

The height of a full-grown, full-size llama is between 5.5 feet (1.6 meters) to 6 feet (1.8 m) tall at the top of the head. They can weigh between approximately 280 pounds (127 kilograms) and 450 pounds (204 kilograms). At birth, a baby llama (called a cria) can weigh between 20 pounds (9 kilograms) to 30 pounds (14 kilograms). Llamas are very social animals and like to live with other llamas as a herd. Overall, the fiber produced by a llama is very soft and is naturally lanolin free. Very intelligent, llamas learn simple tasks after a few repetitions. When using a pack, llamas can carry about 25% – 30% of their body weight for several miles.

Llamas originated from the central plains of North America about 40 million years ago. They migrated to South America and Asia about 3 million years ago. By the end of the last ice-age (10,000 – 12,000 years ago) camelids were extinct in North America. As of 2007, there were over 7 million llamas and alpacas in South America and due to importation from South America in the late 20th century there are now over 100,000 llamas and 6,500 – 7,000 alpacas in the US and Canada.

Llamas who are well-socialized and trained to halter and lead after weaning are very friendly and pleasant to be around. They are extremely curious and most will approach people easily. However, llamas who are bottle-fed or over-socialised and over-handled as youngsters will become extremely difficult to handle when mature, when they will begin to treat humans as they treat each other, which is characterized by bouts of spitting, kicking and neck wrestling. Anyone having to bottle-feed a cria should keep contact to a minimum and stop as soon as possible.

When correctly reared spitting at a human is a rare thing. Llamas are very social herd animals, however, and do sometimes spit at each other as a way of disciplining lower-ranked llamas in the herd. A llama’s social rank in a herd is never static. They can always move up or down in the social ladder by picking small fights. This is usually done between males to see who becomes alpha. Their fights are visually dramatic with spitting, ramming each other with their chests, neck wrestling and kicking, mainly to knock the other off balance. The females are usually only seen spitting as a means of controlling other herd members.

While the social structure might always be changing, they are a family and they do take care of each other. If one notices a strange noise or feels threatened, a warning bray is sent out and all others come to alert. They will often hum to each other as a form of communication.

The sound of the llama making groaning noises or going “mwa” is often a sign of fear or anger. If a llama is agitated, it will lay its ears back. One may determine how agitated the llama is by the materials in the spit. The more irritated the llama is, the further back into each of the three stomach compartments it will try to draw materials from for its spit.

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