Llama is a term used by the Peruvians to designate one of a small group of closely allied animals, which were the only domesticated hooved animals in the country prior to the Spanish conquest of the Americas.
The Llama is a South American mammal. Related to the camel, but smaller and lacking a hump, llamas travel together in flocks, and can carry 50 to 75 pounds of weight over 20 miles on their back. If a llama is carrying too much weight, it will usually lie down, spit, hiss or kick at its owner until the load is lightened.
Llamas are strikingly beautiful, with their elegant wool and graceful posture. They are gentle, quiet, curious and generous, and their wool has four different colors: black, white, brown and gray. Their neck and body are long and their ears are curved in a “banana” shape. Baby llamas are known as calves, adult male llamas are called bulls, and adult females are called cows.
The lifespan of a llama can range from about 15 to 30 years. In addition, they weigh anywhere from 280 to 450 pounds and they stand between 5.5 and 6 feet tall. Llamas give birth standing up and newborns can weigh anywhere between 25 and 35 pounds.
They are herbivores, so they typically only eat grass and ferns. To ingest, llamas regurgitate their food and chew it as cud. They chew each piece of food for a long period of time before swallowing to ensure complete digestion.
They were kept not only for their value as beasts of burden, but also for their flesh, hides, and wool. In fact, llamas were used in place of the horse, the ox, the goat, and the sheep. Llamas are now seeing increasing use in North America as clothing-fiber producing animals and as guard animals for sheep herds, which they protect from coyote attacks.
The skull generally resembles that of a camel, with relatively larger brain-cavity and orbits and less developed cranial ridges. The ears are rather long and pointed. There is no dorsal hump. Feet are narrow, the toes being more separated than in the camels, each having a distinct plantar pad. The tail is short, and fur is long and woolly.
Many llamas are easily annoyed. If annoyed they make a clucking noise as they are spitting up stomach acid. The disagreeable habit of spitting in the face of persons whose presence annoys them is common to all llamas.