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More attractive than the closely related camel, the llama has the same facial expression. For many centuries this animal has provided transportation and food for many South American people. Used primarily as a pack animal, the llama had already been domesticated by the Indians of South America when the Spanish conquistadors arrived in the sixteenth century. It is believed to have been bred from the wild guanaco, a relative of the camel found on the South American pampas and plateaus.
Habits: Found in the alpine grasslands and scrublands of South America, the llama is the principal beast of burden in the Andes. Unlike horses and mules, it does not suffer from mountain sickness at high altitudes and it can walk sure-footedly through high mountain paths and gravel slopes. The llama is docile by nature, but it can be stubborn, stopping completely or lying down when its burden is too heavy. When upset, the llama will spit up a foul smelling liquid from its stomach into the face of its handler.
Males are used for pack animals while females breed
and supply wool for the Indians. Little is known about their social behavior
because they are domesticated and most males are castrated at an early age.
Judging from other members of the Camellia family, they would most likely
gather in small herds with a male and a small harem of breeding females.
The llama is an ideal domesticated breed because it survives with little care in the harsh Andes mountains. The llamas thick, woolly fleece protects it from the harsh mountain climate.
Breeding: The llama breeds seasonally so that the birth of its young coincides with the seasonal growth of vegetation. In the southern hemisphere breeding season lasts from August to September. Llamas mate in a sitting position. The female stands to give birth to a single young. Unlike most other mammals, she neither licks the newborn nor eats the afterbirth. The young walks and follows her 30 minutes after birth. It suckles for about four months. Large, well fed llamas can breed before they are a year old, but most breed at two years.
Food and Feeding: An herbivore (plant eater), the llama grazes mainly on grasses and herbs. It also eats shrubs, lichen, and other plants growing on the high mountains. It gets most of its moisture from vegetation and goes without water for days. Like camels, the llama is a ruminant; it has multi-chambered stomach and chews its cud (partly digested food) twice to help digest the tough, fibrous vegetation matter. In this manner the llama gets plenty of nutrition from food with low nutritional value.
Llama and Man: Nearly 1,000 years ago, settled, crop growing tribes domesticated the llama as a source of meat. Since then it has been used mainly as a beast of burden. The Andean Indians use the llama to carry loads, and to provide meat, wool, and leather. They make candles out of fatty tissue, ropes out of llamas’ braided long hair, and fuel out of dried dung. In recent decades the llama has been introduced into other countries, mostly as a novelty pet.
Length: Head and body, 4-7 ft. Tail, 6 in.
Height to Shoulder: 3 ½ -4 ft.
Weight: 150-350 lb.
Sexual maturity: 1-2 years
Breeding season: August to September in South America
Gestation: 11-12 months
No. of Young: 1
Habit: Sociable and friendly, but can be stubborn
Diet: Grasses, herbs, shrubs, and lichen
Lifespan: Up to 20 years
Related Species: The llama is related to the bactrian camel, Camelus bactrianus ferus, and to the dromedary camel, C. dromedaries
Distribution: Southern Peru through western Bolivia, northwest Argentina, and northeast Chile
Conservation: Nearly three and a half million llamas live in South America. They are being replaced by modern means of transportation, and their wool is not in great demand.
The Llama and its Relatives: The guanaco and
vicuna are the only two species in their genus. The domesticated llama and
alpaca are subspecies derived from the wild guanaco.
Guanaco: A slim animal with a long neck and a shaggy, reddish brown coat. These are the most widespread of all the wild llamas.
Alpaca: Its long, thick coat helps the alpaca graze at high altitudes. Its fine wool is considered better than the llamas.
Vicuna: Smaller and more graceful than the llama. Its head is shorter and its ears longer. Has a long white mane at the base of the neck.
Llama: Has large eyes with long eyelashes and long, pointed ears. Its coat has long, dense wool that is shorter on the head, neck, and limbs.
Did You Know:
'The llama is the largest member of the Camelidae family in South America and is the only native beast of burden to be domesticated in the western hemisphere.
A llama can carry a 110- pound load 16 miles a day at altitudes of 16,404 feet.
When the Spaniards invaded South America to plunder the Incan riches, 300,000 llamas were used to carry supplies in and out of the silver mines.
A llama only allows itself to be loaded with a heavy pack when it is part of a group