Llamas are members of the Camelid family. Camelids originated on the central plains of North America where they lived for 40 million years. Three million years ago llama like animals dispersed to South America. By the end of the Ice Age camelids were extinct in North America. Llamas were domesticated from guanacos in the Andean Highlands of Peru 1000-5000 years ago and are among the oldest domestic animals in the world. Primarily a beast of burden, they provided native herdsman with meat, fiber for clothing, hide for shelter, pellets for fuel and offerings to their gods. Today there are an estimated 4 million llamas in South America and 80,000 in the United States.
Uses include breeding stock, fiber production, pack animals, therapy, driving animals, show animals, guard animals and pets.
Llamas are intelligent and easy to train. In just 1-5 repetitions, they will pick up and retain many skills: as accepting a halter, being led, loading in and out of a vehicle, golf caddies, pulling a cart or carrying a pack. These highly social animals need the companionship of their species. Independent, yet shy, llamas are gentle and curious. Their calm nature and common sense make them easy for
anyone, even children, to handle.
Llamas are a modified ruminant with a three-compartment stomach. They chew their cud like cattle and sheep. Because of a relatively low protein requirement due to their efficient digestive system, they can be kept on a variety of pasture or hay. One llama eats approximately four square bales of hay per month.
Spitting, the llamas way of saying "Bug Off", is normally used between llamas to divert annoying suitors, ward off a perceived threat and most commonly, to establish pecking order at meal time. An occasional llama, who has been forced to tolerate excessive human handling, may have developed an intolerance for or fear of humans and will spit if they feel threatened.
Llamas communicate with a series of ear, body and tail postures, as well as a shrill alarm call and a contented humming sound.
A single baby (cria) is normally delivered from a standing mother during daylight hours with cria's average birth weight of 18-35 pounds. Babies (cria) are normally up and nursing within 90 minutes. Twin births are rare. They are weaned at about five months.
Because llamas and their ancestors are especially suited to the harsh environment of their Andean homeland, North American owners will find them remarkably hardy, healthy, easy to care for and virtually disease free. Llamas have a life span of 20-30 years. Average height at the shoulder is 40-45" and 5.5-6'
at the head. When mature they will weigh 200-400 pounds.
Oil-free, lightweight llama fiber is warm, luxurious and popular with spinners and weavers. A llama can produce 2-8 pounds of fiber. Fiber color ranges from white to black, with shades of gray, beige, brown, red and roam between. It may be solid, spotted or marked in an array of patterns.
Llamas are excellent packers. They carry 70-120 pounds and are not ridden except by children. Its two-toed feet with leathery pads give them great surefootedness. This and the llamas ability to browse, make little impact on the environment.