05 Dec Introduction to Llamas
Llamas appear to have originated from the central plains of North America about 40 million years ago. They migrated to South America about 3 million years ago and domesticated by the Incas 5000 years ago. They are a camelid from a group of even-toed ruminant mammals, they form the family camelidae and there are 6 living species of camelids: Camel,Lllama, Alpaca, Lamini, Guanaco & Vicuna.
Since the 1980’s male llamas can make excellent flock guards as their nature is to protect their group from predators such as foxes, dogs and in the United States coyotes, this instinct can be transferred to guarding field stock such as sheep, goats and even free range poultry and ducks.
Llamas, which are well socialised and trained to halter and lead after weaning are very friendly and pleasant to be around. They are extremely curious and will approach people easily, correctly reared Llamas spitting at humans is a rare thing, they are herd animals and do spit at each other as a way of disciplining the lower rank of the herd .A llama’s social rank is never static, they always move up and down the ladder by picking small fights, usually done between males to see which will become dominant. Their fights are visually dramatic, with spitting, ramming each other with their chests, neck wrestling and kicking to knock the other off balance.
While the social structure may change, they live as 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 become alert. They will often hum to each other as a form of communication. The sound of the llama making groaning noises is often a sound of fear or anger, the more irritated the llama is it will lay its ears back and reach further back into each of the three stomach departments to draw materials for its spit.
Llamas must live in a herd, minimum 3. they can survive on poor pasture, as they do in natural habitat, provided there is sufficient of it. They have a 3 chamber stomach and are a cud chewing mammal like cattle, sheep & goats. Llamas are capable of jumping a five bar gate from a standing position, it is unusual for them to jump out of their grazing area, unless they are frightened or have other temptations, such as females or if inadequate pasture in their enclosure.
Although llamas are well insulated against both heat and cold and their coat acts like a thatched roof against the rain, their heating & cooling system is through their ventral window. This area is located low on the chest, between the front legs, under the abdomen, between the back legs and up to the area under the tail.
Most Llamas do not like being groomed, they have very sensitive skin, as the coat is so dense you can only loosen up the outer layer (Guard hair, can be used to make rugs and lead ropes) you must not brush deeply as this can be painful. It is good to keep the guard hair clear of debris to prevent matting and contamination of the soft fine down hair which is suitable for handicrafts and knitwear. Once the llamas realise they are not going to die and you have the correct technique they get used to it and even have pleasure when grooming the neck.
The general differences between Llama & Alpaca:
- The llama is much bigger with big banana shape ears.
- Alpaca fibre is much finer and produces more fleece and they have more variety of colour in their coats.
- A llama face is much longer, the face of an alpaca is small & really woolly.
- Alpacas are more intelligent and spit less than the llama.
- Alpacas can’t protect themselves or carry any weight.
- Stud male llama – Sire (Machos)
- Castrated male – gelding
- Female – Dam (Hembras)
- Baby – Cria
- Gestation 11 months (350 days)
- Females lay down to mate and mating takes between 20-40 minutes & stand up to give birth
- Average life span is 20 years
- Carry up to 25 kilos
- Height of fully grown Llama up to 5ft 9″
- Llama fibre is flame retardant
- Like camels, they can survive weeks without water (they collect moisture from food)
- Do not have a summer or winter coat so do not moult.
- They detest having their ears touched!!
- Llamas are bred in Peru for meat.
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