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Llamas in Machu Picchu, Peru


       Llamas are members of the camel (camelid) family. The camelids originated on the central plains of North America about 40 million years ago. From there, about three million years ago, llama-like animals dispersed to South America. By the end of the last ice age (10,000-12,000 years ago) the camelids were extinct in North America. Llamas were domesticated from guanacos in the Andean highlands of Peru 4,000-5,000 years ago and are among the oldest domestic animals in the world. Primarily a beast of burden, they also provide native herdsmen with meat, wool for clothing, hide for shelter, manure pellets for fuel, and offerings to their Gods. Today there are an estimated 7 million llamas and alpacas (in approximately equal numbers) in South America, and only a little over 100,000 llamas in the United States and Canada.

About 20-25 years

280 to 450 pounds

A single baby called a cria (cree-ah) is normally delivered without assistance
 from a standing mother during daylight hours.  Most births occur between
 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. Twin births are rare. Average gestation is 350 days.

Birth weight is 20-35 pounds. Babies are normally up and nursing
within 90 minutes. They are usually weaned at 4-6 months.

Females are first bred at  around 24 months depending on maturity and
weight. Llamas do not have a heat cycle, but are copulation induced
ovulators. Ovulation occurs 24-36 hours after breeding. Therefore they
can be bred at any time of the year.

Llama's wool ranges in various colors frrom white to black, shades of
gray, beige, brown, red and roan. The coat may be solid, spotted, or marked
 in a variety of patterns. The llama's fleece also varies  between short, medium, and heavy wool.

Because llamas and their ancestors are specially suited to the harsh environment
 of their Andean homeland, North American owners will find them
 remarkably healthy, easy to care for, economical to keep,  and remarkably disease-free.

What Are They Used For?
Uses include pets, breeding stock, pack animals, driving animals, guard animals,
wool production, showing, 4-H programs, and as relaxing therapy for humans.

Are They Intelligent?
Llamas are very 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 cart, and carrying a pack.

What Is Their Personality Like?
These highly social animals need the companionship of their species.
Independent, yet shy, llamas are gentle and curious. Their calm nature and
     common sense make them easy for anyone, even children, to handle.

What And How Much Do They Eat?
Llamas are a modified ruminant with a three-compartment stomach. They chew
their cud like cattle or sheep. Because of a relatively low protein requirement due
     to their efficient digestive systems, they can be kept on a variety of pastures and hay.

Are They Good Pack Animals?
Llamas make excellent pack animals. They can carry 50-125 pounds, but are not
ridden except by children. Their two-toed foot with its leathery bottom pad gives
     them great sure-footedness. This foot, and the llamas "cafeteria" style browsing
 habit, give the llama an impact on the environment equal to a large deer.

What Sound Do They Make?
Llamas communicate with a series of ear, body and tail postures, as well as soft
humming sounds. They also have a shrill alarm call alerting to danger.

Can You Use Their Wool?
Grease-free, lightweight llama wool is warm, luxurious and popular with
spinners, weavers, and felters.

Do They Spit?
Llamas do not normally spit at humans. Spitting is the llamas way of saying
"Bug-Off!" Spitting is usually used only among llamas to divert annoying suitors,
     ward off a perceived threat, or to establish a pecking order at mealtime. An occasional
 llama who has been forced to tolerate excessive human handling may
     develop an intolerance or fear of humans, and will spit if he feels threatened.


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