Llamas are a member of the camel family
The camel family first originated in the central plains of North America. At the end of the last ice age, 10,000 –12,000 years ago, camelids became extinct in North America and evolved into the LAMA family in South America, and the Camels of Asia and Africa.
The LAMA family has four members; two wild: the Vicunas and the Guanacos; and two domesticated: the Alpaca and the Llama. All four are native to the Andes Mountains in South America. They are primarily found in Peru, Bolivia, and Chile. Llamas have been used as a beast of burden and alpacas have been raised for their wool for thousands of years. In South America, both are used for their meat. Their waste was dried and used for fuel, their hide for shelter, and their wool spun into yarn or felted for clothing. Llamas first arrived in the United States in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s for zoos and private animal collectors. Currently there are approximately 137,198 llamas in the United States, with many more breeders and pet owners throughout the world.
Why have a llama as a pet?
Llamas are intelligent, gentle, well mannered, and clean animals. They are very curious and alert. Their wool is soft and wonderful for spinners. Their waste, which is in pellet form, is a great soil enhancer. They have a three-compartment stomach, which makes them very efficient eaters. They are friendly, very inquisitive yet independent. Some are very loving and like to give hugs and kisses while others don’t. Their awareness makes them a great livestock guardian and they have a unique alert call to warn those in their care.
What do you do with a llama?
Their uses vary. Some make great packing companions since they are very sure footed on all types of terrain. They can carry approximately 20-to-30 % of their body weight for about 12-to-15 miles a day, if properly conditioned. They can be trained to pull carts or wagons, and are great for 4H projects, showing, wool, breeding, pets, therapy, and enjoyment. Llamas are elegant animals that can be enjoyed just for themselves.
- Adult llamas can reach a height of 6’ at the head, or 3’-4’ at the shoulder. Their weight can range from 250 lbs. to 500 lbs., with a life expectancy of 20-to-30 years. Llamas are induced ovulators, so breeding can take place year round. Gestation is around 11 ½ months, give or take a few weeks, and single births are the norm. Babies are most often born in the morning, weighing around 25 lbs., and are up and nursing within the first hour. In the wild, a baby must be ready to run with the herd by evening.
- Communications amongst the herd to define the pecking order can be a series of posturing and/or head and ear movements, and as a last resort, spitting to get a point across! Llamas only spit at people when teased or provoked. Llamas hum when content and they converse in a range of humming sounds with their babies.
- An adult llama eats approximately 6 pounds of hay a day and needs access to mineral salts with selenium, and fresh water. They require their annual shots, should be wormed three to four times a year, and have their toenails trimmed as needed. Llamas do not have hooves, but have two toes with nails on each foot, and a soft leathery pad on the underside.
The llamas on our farm
Llamas have been part of our lives since 1986 and it has been a labor of love for us. Our llamas have given us many laughs, supervised all of our outdoor projects, and have given us much love over the years. In 1998 we moved our critters to South Whidbey. If you are interested in learning more about our “Speechless Brothers”, their wool, or would like to visit, please call (360)-579-1906.