Not too long ago, I wrote an entry about llamas. Then the other day, I went to the State Fair and saw probably a hundred of them! I talked to quite a few llama people (okay, llama owners, but I like the phrase "llama people" better), and I learned some new things about llamas, in addition to what I had learned from my online sources.
- Female llamas can ovulate on demand. That's right, no monthly or yearly or whatever schedule. If a male llama gets her going, she's ovulating.
- In captivity, llamas can live to be about 25 years old. Female llamas give birth up until they're about 20.
- Gestation lasts about 11 months. After the baby llama is born, about two weeks elapse, and then the female is usually pregnant again. This means that llamas give birth pretty much every year for 20 years.
- I met one llama that had blue eyes. Most of the eye was dark, but at the corners, the color sort of speckled out and you could see white, and some of the speckles were dark blue or bright blue. The woman who owned that llama told me that blue eyes in llamas are rare. Most llamas have dark brown or black eyes because, in the wild, a llama with blue eyes will go blind because its eyes would not be protected enough against the harsh light glinting off snow.
- Llamas are good at leaping. I saw one young llama who was lying next to an adult llama, its legs neatly folded under its body, all of a sudden spring up into the air, getting maybe three feet off the ground, all very suddenly and yet also gracefully.
- The bottoms of their feet are not hard, like horses' hooves, but more calloused, like a dog's paws. When llamas walk, they make sort of a shuffling sound. Their bottoms also bob up and down when they walk, which made me think of ladies wearing bustle skirts.
- Their wool is very soft, not like a sheep's wool. One llama lady told me that the inside of a llama wool fiber is hollow, which allows it to trap air and hold warmth. This also makes it very lightweight. In addition, a sheep's wool fiber has all kinds of little barbs all along the shaft, but llama wool fibers are smooth. This means that llama wool next to your skin will not itch. I felt the llama wool for myself, both spun into yarn and on said llamas, and it was delightfully soft.
- Llamas are sort of shy at first, so if they don't know you, and you want to pet them, approach slowly, and let them sniff your hand, the same as you would with a dog. Then if they're close enough to pet, they'll let you pet their neck. They don't really like to be touched on the body or the face if they don't know you, but they're okay with being touched on the neck.
- They also like to smell you (again, like dogs do). Several llamas leaned forward slowly, as if drawn forward by their curiosity in spite of their caution. When they got close enough, they all gave my hand a good, sound, sniff with their camel-like noses and almost immediately moved away, satisfied. Yep, that's a girl.
- Some llamas, if they're feeling particularly friendly, will want to sniff your face. They may touch their nose to your forehead and take a big sniff. Or, I saw one lady greet two llamas in turn, by letting each of them touch their nose to her nose. She found this extremely delightful, and the llamas looked pretty pleased about it, too.
- If you think llamas are only happy fluffy creatures, listen to this: Lots of people use llamas as guard animals, like for their cattle or whatever livestock they might have. I asked one llama lady how llamas act as guards, like do they make some loud noise or something, and the lady said no, but "They'll stomp a coyote to death." She nodded, dead serious. "Oh yeah, they'll protect the heck out of you."
P.S. What are your favorite apples?