Range & Habitat
Presently llamas are still used as pack animals in the South American Andes Mountains southward to Patagonia and Tierra Del Fuego. However, llamas live in domesticity all over the world and can withstand a broad range of climates.
Llamas are members of the Camelid family, which also include the domesticated alpaca and the wild guanaco and vicuna. During the Incan empire (about 4,000-5,000 years ago), llamas were domesticated from guanacos in the Andean Highlands of Peru. They are among the oldest domestic animals in the world. Llamas don't have hooves but a hard leathery pad and two-toed feet for clinging to mountain rocks. Its coarse fleece helps to protect it against bitter mountain winters. The protective outer coat covers a wavy, insulating undercoat. Descriptions of the llamas temperament range from stubborn to sweet. All llamas, well-adjusted or not, will spit food in self defense, hum in a low voice when relaxed and whine like horses when panicked. Llama enthusiasts claim that they are intelligent and easy to train. In just a few repetitions they will pick up and retain many behaviors such as accepting a halter, being led, loading in and out of a vehicle, pulling a car or carrying a pack.
Llamas can carry 100-200 pounds for over 15 miles. Llamas figure heavily as a symbol of peasantry and patriotism in contemporary South American poetry and fiction. Their meat is eaten by South American indigenous peoples, who also use their fur to weave rugs. Primarily a beast of burden, they also provide native herdsmen with meat, fiber for clothing, hides for shelter and manure pellets for fuel. Llama fat is used for candles and their droppings can be burned as fuel. In the United States, llamas were first imported as zoo exhibits in the late 1800's. In the early 1900's newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst populated his estate with llamas. Currently llamas are used by campers, golfers and farmers!
Reproduction & Growth
Females are first bred at 18 to 24 months of age. Llamas do not have a heat cycle but are induced ovulators (ovulation occurs 24-36 hours after breeding); they can be bred at any time during the year. Gestation is 10 months. Babies, or "crias," are born in February or March. A single cria is normally delivered during the day. At birth, crias weigh about 20-30 pounds and will stand up and nurse within 90 minutes. They are weaned at about six months. As adults, the total height is 40-45 inches at the shoulder and 5.5-6 feet at the head. An adult Llama's weight ranges from 280-450 pounds. The Llama's life span is 20 years.
In the Wild: Grass and plants. In the Zoo: Alfalfa hay, llama chow and a salt lick.