Behaviors of Male Llamas

Play or Serious Confrontation?

Can males llamas be housed together in one pasture?
Males housed together in the same pasture can act pretty crazy sometimes - even gelded males. Especially if females are in the same vicinity. The natural instinct of male llamas is to protect their territory from other males. They will chase each other, scream, chest butt, neck wrestle, bite at each other's necks, legs, and private parts. Alot of this type of behavior is just everyday "boy play" - especially in a pasture where young males and geldings are housed together. But often it can get beyond the point of play and can become quite dangerous. Any males, intact or gelded, sharing the same pasture should have their fighting teeth checked periodically and removed when they first appear to avoid ripping injuries. The six fighting teeth are extremely sharp and can inflict injury to the bone. Torn ears and testicles are very common.

Some breeders successfully keep a large number of males together, but once the males start to develop raging hormones and are ready to breed, most remove these males to their own separate pastures to prevent possible serious injuries. There have been more than one report of broken legs and broken jaws as a result of the jousting of intact males housed together. The frequent loud screaming may even be enough to justify separate pastures.

Handlers should be constantly alert when haltering and removing males from the pasture housing male llamas. When an animal has a rope on him or is being haltered, the other males look at him as in a "weakened position" and may proceed to attack him. Especially if the one being haltered is of lower rank in the pasture. More jousting occurs when he is returned to the pasture and he is being unhaltered. Handlers need to be aware of this behavior and stay out of the way of the ramming. Try to release the returning llama in a separate area and let them all find each other again. Then is usually just some sniffing, snorting and posturing rather than a ramming. A catch pen with two gates - one that opens into the pasture and one that opens out of the pasture - can be very helpful and provide safety when dealing with a pasture full of males. With this type of catch pen in the pasture, you can unhalter and release the returning male without having to deal with his jealous pasturemates!

Actually there is no single right answer that will work for everyone. You need to know your animals, understand your herd's behaviors, and re-arrange or shift various groups as they need to be changed.
Can two or more breeding males be housed together?
Yes, it can be done ...... if all the fighting teeth are removed and you have the stamina and the extra strong fencing to withstand all the chasing, pushing, and screaming. However, the fighting has been known to get rough enough to result in broken legs and broken jaws. They are especially interested in charging the one who has been removed from the pasture for some reason and is now returning. Handlers must be aware of this common behavior and stay out of the way.
At what age should males be removed from the girl's pasture?
It is recommended by most breeders that young males be removed from the female's pasture at around 7 months of age. Actually it has been reported that a young male as young as 6 months has actually settled a female, but that would be a rare happening. Usually a male llama is not able to settle a female until close to 2 years - or older. Young males will often practice breeding the females, and even other young males, at a very young age - this is normal behavior.
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What is the best age to geld males?
Although there are a number of different opinions on the subject of gelding age, most veterinarians recommend waiting until at least two years of age. It is sometimes thought that gelding at an earlier age results in a long, leggy animal due to the fact that the gelding was done before the growth plates in the legs closed. Another question pending is whether early gelding may cause the llama to have weak or dropped pasterns at a fairly early age. Some breeders report successful gelding at only a year old, but with the results of studies so far, it probably would be better for the animal to wait until an older age.
Can gelded males be kept in with the females?
Any gelded male may be safely kept in with the females since he is no longer able to impregnate them. However, if it is a male who has once been used for breeding, he may still exhibit this instinctive behavior and be a bother to open females. If a male has never done any breeding, it usually works out well for him to be in with the girls. He may think he's the guard over this particular group and act effectively. I have had a gelded male in my girl's pasture for a number of years and he is well accepted. He tolerates the new cria following him around and is very protective of any new gelding put into "his" herd. The girls accept him well and he lives a contented life without any other males to pick on him.
What about male's fighting teeth?
At around two years of age, male llamas will develop six very sharp fighting teeth - two on the top gum and one on the bottom on each side of the mouth. These curved teeth are very sharp and angle towards the back of the mouth thus making them very adept for ripping. Many ears, legs, and testicles have been deeply injured due to intact fighting teeth. These six teeth need to be observed carefully when they break through the gums and can easily be removed. The teeth may continue to grow some and possibly a second removal will be necessary at a later time, but they will have only a blunt top and cannot cause much injury. See more about removing the fighting teeth here.
At what age do males start to breed?
A lot of males will "practice breeding" from the time they are very young. However, most males first are able to first settle a female at around the two years of age. Some as early as 18 months and some as late as over 3 years old.

Their breeding procedure is to chase the female and jump on her, and possibly bite at her legs, to get her to lay down. When the female is down in a kushed position, he mounts her from the rear. As he breeds her, his front legs caress the female's shoulders as he makes a type of gargling sound in his throat called an orgle. The breeding process commonly lasts from 30 to 45 minutes.

When breeding, it is recommended to wrap the female's tail with vet wrap so the male's penis does not get caught in the wool. Many unfortunate male injuries (sometimes permanent) have occurred due to getting entangled in the wool.
Are adult males aggressive and dangerous?
Males will start to demonstrate some aggressive behavior at around two years of age when their male hormones are maturing. At this time, they need to be taught proper manners and be disciplined when on a halter and lead. An adult intact male can be just about as handable as an adult female when taught the proper respect, manners, and given discipline. More awareness is required when adult males are taken around female llamas, but they definitely can be taught manners and are not dangerous.
What is Berserk Male Syndrome?  Or ABS Behavior?
A term that has been attached to overly aggressive behavior. Unfortunately, this behavior is not a fault of the animal but instead caused by incorrect handling of the animal by humans. Males that have been overly handled, cuddled, taken away from their moms, or bottle fed when they were young are prime candidates to demonstrate this dangerous aggressive behavior when they reach breeding age, about 18 mo. to 2 yrs. and become territorial. As an adult, they can be extremely dangerous and may suddenly charge, spitting and screaming, rear up or try to stomp their unsuspecting human victim. Read more on this type of aggressive behavior here.

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