Llamas, pronounced 'yamuz', are members of the camelid family. The first ancestors of all camels lived in North America more than 40 million years ago. About 2 million years ago, some types of camels left North America and went to Asia. These were the North American Camel, which is now extinct, but all dromedaries and bactrian camels living today descended from these animals. Other types of camels left North America and went to South America. The two types of wild camels living in S. America today are the vicuna (vye-coon-yuh) and the guanaco (whah-knock-o). People used the guanaco to breed two domestic breeds of camel, the alpacas (al-pack-as) and the llamas (ya-muz).
They are used for packing into the mountains, well known for their sure footedness and ability to carry up to 1/3 of their body weight. A large male llama can weigh up to 400 pounds with the average being around 350 pounds. They are also valued by hand spinners for their hair that is spun into fine soft fiber. If a llama has been trained for guarding other livestock, they can be of great value to sheep and goat farmers. Many are used today as sheep and goat guardians.
Llamas are very intelligent and curious. They can be trained easily and remember their training forever. They are a great addition to most small farm situations as they are very easy keepers. The maintenance cost is small compared to other large farm animals. They need their toenails trimmed much the same way as a goat, they also need annual vaccinations and need to be wormed on a regular basis. The manure is excellent for gardens, having very similar characteristics to sheep manure.
Yes, they do spit. However they are most usually aiming at fellow llamas not humans. Unfortunately the most exposure most people get to a llama is in a zoo. These llamas have been given to the zoo because they have been mistreated in some way or another, giving them a definite attitude problem. Female llamas spit at stud llamas after being bred, this is like saying "back off Jack!" Once they spit them off, it's a good sign that they are bred.
Llamas are herd animals, which means they must always have a companion animal with them. It doesn't have to be another llama, it can be a goat, sheep, pig, horse, or dog but they are usually happier with one of their own kind.
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This page was last updated on December 09, 2007