Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Apple #92: Llamas


I llike llamas. They like to chew. They also spit, sometimes. I saw them at the State Fair two years ago, and they didn't like it when they were made to walk through a puddle of water. They got very jumpy and fidgety and one llama bolted and ran. But most of the time, they chew and look bemused or half asleep.

This llama's name is Lil Bit.
  • Llamas are members of the camel family. This makes them a camelid, along with camels, alpacas, guanacos, and vicunas.
  • Camelids used to run around in North America as well as in South America, but they went extinct in North America after the last ice age.
  • Llamas were domesticated in Peru 4,000 to 5,000 years ago. They are among the oldest animals in the world.
  • In South America, which is the llama's homeland, llamas are used as a pack animal, their wool is used to make rugs and ropes, they are eaten for meat, and their dung is used for fuel.
  • In the United States where they are becoming increasingly popular, they are used for toting loads, for fibers from their wool, and as companion and guard animals.
  • Llamas can live about 20 years, and they weigh anywhere from 250 to 400 pounds.
  • Baby llamas weigh between 18 and 35 pounds at birth. The mother gives birth while standing, usually in the daytime.
  • Their feet are split into two toes that are heavily padded so that a llama walking around makes less of an impact on the ground than the boots of a person hiking. It also makes a llama sure-footed in the snow.
  • The bald patch on the back of their legs, just above the ankles so to speak, actually contains a scent gland believed to be involved in producing pheromones that alert other llamas to danger. Llamas have another scent gland between their toes.

This is Excellente of Bolivia, and apparently he sired many show llamas.

  • If a llama is conditioned to do so, it can carry 25% to 30% of its total body weight. That's anywhere from 62 to 120 pounds. This makes llamas as strong, if not stronger, than horses used as pack animals. Can you carry 25% of your body weight? For a long way up and down mountains?
  • They have 3-part stomachs (unlike the 4-part stomachs that cows have). Because they only have 3 parts to their stomachs, they are technically not ruminants, but you should feed them the kinds of things ruminants eat because other foods like oats will give them stomach ulcers. Most llamas like hay the best.
  • Llamas process food very efficiently, so it actually takes less feed to make a llama grow than it does to feed a sheep, for example. The amount of food on which llamas can survive is sometimes likened to desert-like levels of food.
  • They have no upper teeth, only a hard upper gum and large molars way in back. They have matching large molars below, as well as lower incisors. Adult males develop large upper and lower canines for fighting.
  • Llamas are relatively docile and easy to train. It usually takes only 1 to 5 repetitions for a llama to learn such things as accepting a halter, being loaded in or out of a trailer, pulling a cart, or carrying a pack. Compared to many dogs, llamas learn a heck of a lot faster.
  • They communicate using subtle changes in ear, tail, and body positions. They also make a humming sound and a shrill call of alarm.
  • About the spitting. It has been discovered that llamas spit more as a way to communicate with other llamas. They do it to make unwanted mating partners go away, to protect themselves from threatening animals, and mostly to establish a pecking order during meals. Llamas will only spit at humans if they have been over-handled to the point where they have developed a fear or dislike of people.
  • Although llamas are actually a lot smarter than they look, the term "llama" has come to be used to indicate a slow-witted or ignorant person. Lots of computer games and how-to books use phrases such as "llama-tested" to indicate that even a newbie can use it.

Llamas from Spruce Lane ranch, looking confused.

P.S. Please let me know your top ten favorite apples

Llama Web, learning more about llamas
Sutter's Mill Llama Ranch, llama owner information
Wikipedia's entry on llamas

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