Llamas and their relatives are no strangers to our
land. Llamas are members of
the camelid family, which at one time thrived on the plains of North
America. With the Ice Age,
llamas became extinct in North America.
Llamas migrated to South America and took up residence in the
land of the Andean Mountains.
In the highlands of Peru, some 3,000 to 4,000 years
ago, llamas were domesticated, placing them among the oldest domestic
animals in the world. The
llama was the lifeline of the Inca Indians of South America.
Called their "silent brother" by the Incas, the llama
was worshipped and highly regarded.
The llama was their beast of burden, the source of clothing and a
source of food as well as fuel.
In the late 1800s and early 1900s, private animal
collectors and zoos reintroduced llamas to their original North American
homeland. Today there are
an estimated seven million llamas and alpacas in South America (in
approximately equal numbers) and some 80,000 to 100,000 llamas in the
United States and Canada.
Llamas started to become popular in the United States
when an Oregon couple decided to promote them as domestic livestock and
made them available to the general public.
Little was known at the time of the many functions that we would
later find they served.
Birth Weight: 18 to 30 pounds
Average Adult Weight: 250 pounds to 400 pounds
Approximate Life Span
: 20 years
Breeding Ages of Llamas:
Males - 2 to 2-1/2 years Females - 18 to 24 months
Female llamas are induced ovulators and can be bred at any time of the year.
350 days of gestation
are very rare.
birth during daylight hours.
weaned at approximately 6 months of age.
disease-free and hardy in most climates.
worming and vaccinating as with any other livestock.
black, brown, red, gray, spotted, tricolor
once a year in the spring.
Environmental Animals of the ‘90s
are environmentally sensitive, intelligent creatures. Their feet, comprised of soft pads with two toenails, impact
the environment less than the boots of an average hiker, yet llamas are strong.
A conditioned llama can carry approximately 25% to 30% of its body
weight, making a llama as strong, if not stronger, than a horse.
are efficient foragers. They have
less impact on plant life than the native deer.
Often llamas require no supplemental feed when in areas with good forage,
except at the end of the day as a treat for a job well done. In areas without
adequate forage you may need up to two pounds of hay per day. Llamas are also
easy to transport. A small,
partially enclosed pickup truck with racks will transport two adult llamas.
They travel lying down and also travel well in vans, stock trailers,
boats and even airplanes.
Llamas have discreet
bathroom habits. Their pelleted
droppings, similar to those of a deer, are virtually odorless and are generally
deposited in the communal dung pile. This
neatness minimizes parasite contamination, reduces fly problems and makes cleanup
easier for the owner. A llama's
effective digestive system also helps to eliminate introduction of noxious weeds
into the environment. Breaking camp
is simple - shovel or scatter the pile.
are inexpensive to maintain. With
their efficient, three-chambered stomachs, llamas typically cost less to feed
than a dog. They browse on many
types of forage, which reduces the need for expensive hay.
Depending on the climate, llamas can do well in a 3 sided shelter.
A 4' to 5' fence of wire or wood will usually suffice with an acre of
land supporting two to four llamas.
are great working partners and family pets.
They have predictable, calm responses to new situations. Llamas are trustworthy.
Their intelligent, gentle nature allows even small children to interact
with them. The fiber of a llama can
be spun and woven into sweaters, blankets, hats and the like.
Llamas are used in animal facilitative therapy because of their calming
effects. Families can get involved
with llamas in 4H, Scouts, and other youth activities.
don't bite, don't dig, don't bark and don't have fleas.
They are dependable companions for packing and jogging.
Llamas can be trained to pull carts and carry children.
With 6,000 years of working with humans, llamas have shown they offer the
service of a horse with the upkeep of a dog!