Llamas are domesticated animals from South America. They are of same family as camels but doesn't have a hump. They have rather long ears which are curved slightly inward, known as banana shaped. Their feet are narrow, their toes being more separate than those of camels, each with a distinct plantar pad. Llamas have a very short tail and their coat is long, soft and woolly. They are usually brown in color, ranging from very dark to very light, depending on where they live.
Originally Llamas are native to the Andean mountains of South America, but now they are extinct in the wild and exist today only as domesticated animals. They were introduced as pets and farm animals to North America, Europe and Australia. Their natural habitat is the Andean highlands, particularly the Altiplano of western Bolivia and southeast Peru, plateaus which are covered with low vegetation, including various stunted trees, shrubs and grasses. In the region of the Altiplano, the northern parts are mountainous and reasonably temperate, while the south is inhospitable, being drier and desert-like. They can live at elevations from sea-level to over 4000 meters.
Habits and lifestyle
Llamas are highly social, gregarious diurnal animals, living in groups of as many as 20 individuals. The groups consist of around 6 breeding females with their young from the current year. The group is led by a single male that defends his position aggressively by taking part in dominance fighting. These animals use communally shared latrines for feces, possibly to mark territory. Llamas make a lot of vocal sounds, using a range of calls that are low and yammering. Their vocalizations are especially distinct when there are predators about and to warn other llamas of danger. They are aggressive in the presence of predators and will charge, kick, bite, and spit at those they consider a threat.
Diet and nutrition
Llamas are polygynous. Males gather a harem of around 6 females into their territorial area and then drive away aggressively all other males of breeding age which come into the area. Llamas generally mate in late summer and early autumn. Gestation lasts 350-360 days, and one cria (infant llama) is born to each female almost every year. A cria is able to run an hour or so after being born. Newborns weigh around 10 kg, and for 5-6 months they are nursed. The mothers are responsible for the most of the parental care, protecting and caring for their crias until they are about one year old. Males provide some indirect care in that they defend a territory which provides sufficient grazing for the young and the females of their group. The females are sexually mature between 18 and 24 months, males at 2 to 2.5 years old.
Late summer-early fall
The current population in South America of llamas is estimated to be over 7 million and there are approximately 158,000 llamas In Canada and the U.S.
Domestication of the llama began about 3,000 to 5,000 years ago, making them one of the first animals in the world to be domesticated. Inca Indians used them as pack animals, and as a source of food, clothing and fuel.
Fun facts for kids
- Llamas are popular in the U.S. for pets and companions. They have a gentle temperament and inquisitive character, which make them perfect as a companion or therapy animal. They are used in hospices, nursing homes, and hospitals to give residents some interaction and provide a sensory experience, as a visit from a llama is an emotionally positive exercise for patients and residents. Such therapy can help with healing or simply provide some entertainment and enjoyment.
- Llamas are known for the gentleness of their character and the ease with which they are trained. Often they can learn new tasks after just a few repetitions.
- A llama stretching up very tall with its head held high, flicking its tail rapidly, usually means displeasure. Pregnant females commonly use this behavior to deter an approaching male.
- Fossil footprints in California show that llamas, which are relatives of camels, came originally from North America. It is thought that the animals that went north and crossed over the Bering land bridge later evolved into camels, while those that migrated south evolved into the "llama" family.
- Llamas make a range of sounds, the most common one being a humming noise. Females hum to their crias (offspring). Males orgle during breeding, which is a sound like a gurgle. If two males decide to fight, they will begin screaming at each other.
- Llamas do spit, usually to settle an argument about food or to decide which llama is dominant. A female will spit at a male to make him go away. They do not usually spit at humans unless provoked.