The llama is a South American relative of the camel with origins in the central plains of North America some 40 million years ago. It is also a cousin to the domesticated alpaca and the wild guanacos and vicuñas. They’re a domesticated livestock that can be found in the mountainous terrains of the Americas, Europe, and Australia.
Llamas are herbivores and consume grass, hay, and grain as well as barks, twigs, and sliced apples and carrots. They have three stomach compartments and are known to chew their cud.
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Classic Llama (Ccara Sullo)
This is the traditional llama that has a taller and larger body than other types of llamas. With less fiber on its neck, legs, and head, the hair on this llama’s coat is a bit longer than the other parts of the body, making it resemble a saddle. Some even have neck hair that makes it look like a mane. In fact, the term “classic” refers to their coat type. They have double-coated fleece and a fine undercoat, but when you keep the hair combed it is a lot less dense, even sparse.
Classic llamas can withstand nearly all types of weather, including very cold weather and all but the hottest and most humid of temperatures. Naturally, shorn llamas don’t do well during cold weather because they need the hair to keep them warm, so it is recommended that owners only shear their llamas when it’s warm outside. Llamas also have very distinct ears, with a rounded tip instead of a spear-shaped tip.
The medium llama has long fibers on the body and neck region, but shorter fibers on the head, legs, and ears than the wooly llama. Even the experts sometimes have a difficult time telling the difference between the medium llama and the wooly llama, even though there are some differences. The medium llama has a fleece that is double layered, with long, rough guard hairs which extend with a great undercoat. Some of these llamas are the result of breeding a wooly llama and a traditional or common llama.
Suri llamas are extremely rare and offer wool protection such as the wooly llama, the difference being that the fibers are much less fine than they are on the wooly llamas. It is thought by the experts that there are no more than one hundred llamas in all of Europe. They are also difficult to breed because their genetics pool is very small and not readily available, even for experienced breeders.
The word “Suri” refers to the type of fiber structure belonging to the llama. For it to be classified as a Suri, the fiber has to hang in well-defined “locks” from the skin to the end of the lock. There are also several types of locks. The most common is the type that looks like a twisted or corkscrew pencil lock, although some of them can twist just on the very ends of the lock.
If you’re looking for a sweater or overcoat made of some of the softest material on the planet, try an item made with the wool of a Vicuna llama. Of course, because these llamas can only be shorn every three years and it takes up to 30 llamas to make just one coat, this type of wool is very rare – even more rare than cashmere. The llamas are native to the Andes Mountains of South America, and they usually have an orange coat with patches of white on it. Vicuna llamas will starve themselves if kept in captivity, which means they have to be released back into the wild after they are shorn.
Smaller than many other types of llamas, the wooly llama has strong wool covering the entire body, particularly on the head, neck, and ears. Their fiber is very kinky and thick, and it is mixed with a minimum number of guard hairs. In fact, many wooly llamas have fiber that is the same quality as an ordinary alpaca, and because the undercoat is missing on these animals, their consistent fleece is usually known as single-layered.
Interesting Facts about Llamas
They Have Specific Names
A pack of llamas is called a herd. The males are known as sires, the females are called dams, and the baby llamas are called crias.
No Need to Be Afraid of Fire
For all types of llamas, their fibers are always fireproof.
Multiple Colors for Your Enjoyment
Contrary to what many people think, llamas can come in colors that include brown, grey, black, and beige, while the patterns found on their coats can be solid, spotted, or in various other patterns.
Very Large in Size
Llamas are very large animals, getting up to six feet when measured to the top of their head, and weighing up to 450 pounds in some instances. Even the “smaller” llamas can weigh up to 250 pounds.
Very Sociable Animals
Llamas love to be sociable and in fact, they usually travel with approximately 20 other llamas at any given time. If there is a misunderstanding in the group, llamas can spit on one another, but contrary to popular belief, llamas rarely spit at humans. They only do so if they feel threatened or they are provoked.
Strong with Lots of Longevity
Llamas live from 20 to 30 years, and they are so strong that they can go for up to 12 miles while carrying a 100-pound heavy load on their backs. They are also very intelligent, but very stubborn animals. An example of the latter is that when their owners try to make them carry a load that is too heavy, they simply won’t do it and will only start to walk once some of the load is removed. They are also very easy to train.
Llamas are part of the camel family, although they have no hump. Their first appearance came about 40 million years ago when they were found in the Central Plains of the United States. The Peruvians are who first domesticated them, which occurred roughly 4,000 to 5,000 years ago.
Fairly Fast Animals
Llamas can run up to 35 miles an hour, so if one gets loose you may have a hard time running after it.
Some Rather Unusual Features
Llamas have no hooves, but instead, they have soft, leathery pads on their feet, along with two toes that contain toenails.