Domestic Llama

Llama Dec 2007

Class: Mammalia
Order: Artiodactyla
Family: Camelidae
Taxonomic Name: Lama glama

Range: Andes Mountains of South America at elevations from 7,500 to 13,000 feet.

Habitat: Mountainous grassland and scrubland, preferring dry areas.

Physical Characteristics: Llamas are even-toed ungulates (hoofed) and ruminates (chambered stomachs). They have long slender necks with small, narrow heads. They have very large, dark eyes and long sweeping eyelashes on their upper lids. Their long, slender legs support a boxlike body. Their tails are short and curved. The llama's wooly, dense fur can be one solid color or multi-colored in browns, rusts, blacks, grays, and whites. They weigh 285 to 340 pounds. They are 3.3 to 4.2 feet tall at the shoulder and 5.1 to 6.6 feet long. They have specially designed footpads that help them maneuver on their rocky terrain.

Longevity: They can live up to 24 years with good care.

Social Structure: Their ancestors, the guanaco, spend their time in herds of 4- 10 females led by a single male.

Active Time: Diurnal

Diet: Wild - Grasses and leaves.

          Zoo - Hay, alfalfa cubes, grain and base diet.

Behavior: The llama is a completely domesticated animal. They are usually gentle and can make good pets, however, their owners must treat them kindly or they quickly become stubborn and difficult to handle. Their relatives, the guanacos and vicunas, live in both single-sex and harem groups. If frightened or upset, they will spit as a defense mechanism. This spit is usually made up of cud, which is food that they are chewing for the second time.

Reproduction: Sexual maturity is reached at 1 to 2 years of age. Females can give birth once a year. Mating takes place in August and September and gestation will last approximately 10 to 11 months. They give birth to a single young which is very precocial. The babies weigh between 8 and 16 pounds at birth.

Interesting Facts:

  • Llamas were domesticated in Peru about 4,500 years ago.
  • The llama is used primarily as a beast of burden and is the only animal with such a function to be domesticated by their native people.They can carry 57 lbs. at a rate of 15 miles per day over rugged mountainous terrain.
  • At the time of the Spanish conquest, 300,000 llamas were being used by the Incas at their silver mines.
  • Their primary predator is the puma.
  • The llama's meat is used for food, its fleece is woven into clothing, its hide is made into sandals, its fat is used in making candles, its hairs are braided into rope, and its dried excrement is used as a fuel.
  • Llamas are ruminates; meaning they have chambered stomachs that digest their meals in a very specific manner. The grass is swallowed, partially digested and then sent back up to the mouth for additional chewing before being swallowed a final time.
  • They function well at high altitudes because their hemoglobin (a component of blood) has a much greater affinity for oxygen than other mammals.
  • When bringing them down from high altitudes, they often have a hard time adjusting and it can take them several days to a few weeks.

Relationship With Humans: The llama has been kept as a work animal for centuries. For many centuries, the llama was the most important mode of transportation of goods in the Andes. However, they have been of decreasing importance due to the increased technology of cars, planes and trains.