Llamas belong to the camel (camelid) family and are now native to South America. This wonderful animal has a unique history. About 40 million years ago, llamas thrived in the central plains of North America. During the ice age, they were considered as extinct, but actually they migrated to South America and started residing in the Andean Mountains. During the period of extinction, these animals were domesticated in the highlands of Peru by the Inca Indians of South America. The Inca Indians named them as “silent brothers” and worshipped them. For almost 3000 to 4000 years, llamas remained extinct to the world, except Peru. Then in the late 1800s and early 1900s, llamas were rediscovered by the private animal collectors. After the rediscovery, these animals were introduced to the place of their origin, North America. In 2007, there were 7 million llamas and alpacas in South America, but after their transfer to North America, now there is a considerable number llamas in US and Canada too. Llama provides soft wool and its fine undercoat is used to produce handicrafts and garments. Very interesting animal, isn’t it? Let’s read some more facts on this creature and enhance our knowledge.
Scientific Name: Artiodactyla Camelidae
Height: 1.7 m to 1.8 m (5.5 to 6 ft)
Weight: Approximately 130 to 200 kilograms (280 to 450 lb)
Life Span: 15 to 29 years
Diet: Herbivorous, grass is their staple diet
Range: Andes mountain range of South America in Peru, Chile, Bolivia and Ecuador
Habitat: Grasslands, mountainous areas and deserts
Age of Sexual Maturity: Males: 3 years, Females: 12 months
Gestation Period: Approximately 350 days (eleven and half months)
Number of Offspring: One
Interesting And Amazing Facts About Llama
- A male llama is called as sire, the female is named as dam, and cria is the name given to baby llama. A group of llamas is called herd.
- Llamas are used for various purposes; such as, wool, packing, cart pulling, animal facilitated therapy, exhibitions, etc.
- According to the palaeontologists Corpe, Marsh, and Leidy, the discovery of extinct tertiary fauna of North America in the 19th century helped in recognizing the history of llamas and their family.
- The llama-like remains found in Rocky Mountains and Central America confirm that llamas were not confined to North America only.
- It has been believed that about 25,000 years ago, the llama-like animals were common in present day California, Texas, New Mexico, Utah, Missouri, and Florida.
- The Inca Indians of South America considered them as their lifeline as llamas were the only means of livelihood for them.
- All the animals of lama genus closely resemble each other and therefore, the naturalists find it difficult to categorize them.
- Although it is difficult to identify their distinguishing characteristics, but still the naturalists have categorized them in four forms: the llama, (Lama glama); the alpaca (Vicugna pacos); the guanaco (Lama guanicoe), and the vicuña (Vicugna vicugna).
- Llama’s size, head, and ears were the basic characteristics used to categorize them.
- The llama and the alpaca are the only species that are domesticated while guanaco and vicuña survive in the wild.
- Of all the four categories, the guanaco falls under the list of endangered species.
- The vicuña is found in the elevated parts of mountain ranges of Peru, southern part of Ecuador, and central Bolivia.
- Wild vicunas are the ancestors of vicuña while guanaco have wild as their ancestors.
- The wool provided by llamas is lightweight, warm, and luxurious, making it popular choice of spinners and weavers.
- The fibres of llamas are fireproof.
- Llamas have two-toed feet with leathery bottom which makes them excellent pack animals.
- Llamas are found in various colours; such as, white, brown, grey, black, beige, etc. The pattern of colours on llama’s body also varies; it can be solid, spotted, or marked in various other patterns.
- Just like camels, llamas can also survive for weeks without water because they collect moisture from the food that they eat.
- Llamas are compared to dogs and horses because of their trustworthiness and capability to carry heavy loads.
- Llamas have 32 teeth in total and the dentition of adults contains, 1/3 canines, 2/2 premolars, 3/2 molar, and 1/1 canines.
- Unlike camels, llamas don’t have the isolated canine-like premolar.
- The ears of a llama are banana shaped: long and curved inward.
- The toes of llamas are different from those of camels: they are more separated with different planter pads.
- Llamas are intelligent animals and they can be easily trained as compared to other domestic animals.
- Most of the animals bite when agitated, but llamas spit. Yes, if anyone disturbs a llama then they spit on them.
- Although llamas belong to the family of camels, but they don’t have hump on their back.
- Llamas can carry 20% to 30% of their body weight. They can easily carry weight on highly elevated regions which is somewhat difficult for the other mountain climbing animals.
- One of the humorous facts about llamas is that they refuse to carry the load if overburdened. They often lie down on the ground, spit, or sometimes kick at their owners when forced to move. They keep on sitting until the burden is reduced.
- Llamas’ digestive system has one stomach with three compartments which makes them suitable to survive on sparse vegetation in mountainous areas.
- Llamas are social animals and like to stay in a herd. Just like humans, llamas also follow the social ranking method. The more disciplined llamas are kept at the top of the ladder. Llamas that spit and fight are kept at the lower order, but these social rankings are not static. A small fight can destroy the disciplined character of a llama and it will then fall down the ladder in social rankings.
- During the birth of a cria, the female llamas gather around the mother llama in order to protect it from male llamas and predators.
- Dams give birth in a standing position and the baby takes birth in 30 minutes only.
- Llamas can breed in three situations: harem breeding, field breeding, and hand breeding. Harem breeding involves leaving the male llamas with female llamas for most of the years; in case of field breeding, the female and male llamas are left in a field for some period of time; and in the hand breeding situation, the male and female llamas are bred, separated, and then rebred, until one of them refuses the breeding.
- The female llama can take out only half inch of its tongue from the mouth and therefore it is not able to lick the baby, instead it nuzzles and hums on the newborns.
- Llamas are used as guards in the western regions of the United States to protect the livestock, especially sheep, from the predators.
- Llamas are so peaceful and calm animals that even a kid can raise llamas without any help.
- Llama’s manure is almost odourless.