Posted by Marcela Galloway on 2/6/2019


Llamas are native to Central and South America, where they have been bred for thousands of years by the indigenous people. These domesticated mammals possess thick and long hair that comes in a variety of colors, including white, brown, black, red and even mottled.  

Llamas are closely related to camels. The two species look strikingly similar, although the llama lacks the camel’s signature hump. Llamas have worked for centuries as carriers and modes of transportation; their wooly fur is even regularly used to make blankets, ropes and clothing. So closely integrated into communities, llamas live alongside humans filling the role of both working animal and pet.

The cradle of llama domestication is the Andean "puna” (Western South America: Peru and Bolivia). Over 6300 years of selective breeding for gentleness have made Llamas the safest and easiest-to-train pack animals in the world. The Aymaran Indians who live near Lake Titicaca in Peru and Bolivia call the llama a "speechless brother", because only a brother would carry the burdens they do without complaint (Ref. Andy Tillman "Speechless Brothers" 1981).

Llamas were raised for meat and much later became wool producers, together with their cousin, the alpaca. It is estimated that llamas were used to carry wool textiles to the coast approximately 2500 years ago. The Inca culture (approx. 1200 AD to 1532) who had not yet discovered the wheel, relied upon the llama to carry trade goods, produce and military supplies throughout the empire. The pivotal role that llamas and alpacas played in the Incan culture and economy naturally elevated them to a highly regarded status.

About 70 percent of llamas live in Bolivia. According to the book "Los Mamiferos de la Argentina y la Region Austral de Sudamerica by Parera," there were about 3 million llamas in the world as of 2002. They are not considered threatened or endangered.


Physical Features

Llamas are relatively large mammals; they stand around 4 feet tall at the shoulder, though their elongated necks can easily add another foot or two, with an average weight of 250 to 300 pounds. A llama has a long neck and limbs, a rounded muzzle, a bit of an underbite and a cleft upper lip. Each of a llama’s feet has two toes and a thick leathery pad useful for maneuvering rocky, uneven terrain. As for fur, it’s long, shaggy and wooly and comes in a variety of colors.


Curious and sociable, llamas enjoy working with each other, people and even other animals. A communicative species, llamas are vocal -- using a series of calls, hums and clucking sounds to communicate and warn of predators. As social, pack animals, llamas prefer to live in groups of around 20 individuals. A llama pack is comprised of roughly six breeding females and their offspring as well as an alpha male. Dominance is extremely important in a llama pack, and the alpha male will defend his position aggressively if warranted.


Llamas are herbivores, preferring to munch on low shrubs, lichens, grasses, seeds, grains, roots and other mountain vegetation. They graze throughout the day and, like cows, regurgitate their food and chew it as cud. Because their natural habitat -- the Andean highlands in Peru -- is very dry, llamas have adapted to small amounts of water. They only consume around two to three gallons of water and only eat around 1 to 2 percent of their body weight in food each day.

History of the Llamas in North America:

The modern llama is a relative newcomer in North America. Zoos, animal parks, exotic trainers and collectors all imported llamas to the United States in the late 1800's, including the famous William Randolph Hearst collection at San Simeon. In the1930's an outbreak of foot and mouth disease in South America stopped all importation. In 1984, the ban was lifted for llamas from Chile. There were two large importations totaling several hundred llamas and alpacas. The llama "craze" was in full swing. More importation from other South American countries followed as well as selective breeding in their countries of origin and in the United States. Today, llamas are enjoyed by many people in this country and used as show animals, fiber producers, pack animals, hiking companions, therapy animals and pets. There are an estimated 200,000 llamas living in the United States today.

https://animals.mom.me/llama-description-2932.html Llama Description by Christina Stephens


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