Llama

The llama’s ancestors probably originated in North America about 40 million years ago. From here, they crossed into South America three million years ago.

Llamas are widely distributed along the length of the Andes Mountains, from Ecuador to Chile and Argentina. However, all these animals are kept by people – there are no wild llamas. Llamas appear to be domestic breeds of the guanaco. Llamas are the most common members of the Lama genus, which also includes guanacos and alpacas, another domestic breed. Llamas can produce fertile offspring with these other animals, so they are probably all the same species. Llamas exhibit the behaviour of wild guanacos. Males defend a harem of about six females in a small territory. The young, or crias, can walk after their first hour of life. Young males are driven off by their fathers when they mature at about two years old.

The llama’s breeding cycle is unusual because the species is an induced ovulator. This means that females do not have a regular period of oestrus like most mammals, but ovulate in response to mating, greatly enhancing the likelihood of pregnancy occurring. Mating can last up to 45 minutes, and llamas mate lying down. When the youngster is born, the female cannot lick the offspring because her tongue is too short – only extending about 1.25 cm (0.5 in) outside the mouth.

Distribution: Today, llamas and their relatives are naturally confined to the Andean region of South America, but they are also kept widely throughout the world.

Weight: 127 — 204 kg (280 — 450 lb).

Length: 350 cm (138 in), including tail; stands up to 210 cm (84 in) tall.

Maturity: Females 1 year; males about 3 years.

Gestation Period: 331 – 350 days; weaning at about 6 months.

Breeding: 1, very  occasionally 2.

Diet: Herbivorous, grazing on grass and browsing on taller plants.

Lifespan: 15 – 20 years.

Eyelashes

These are absent in llamas, but present in their close relative, the alpaca (Auchenia paces).

Tail

The tail is short and, like the body, is covered in a dense, soft woolly coat.

Colouration

Llamas are often white, brown or a mix of these colours.

Ears

These are tall, narrowing along their length and often referred to as being banana-shaped.

FOUL TEMPER

If frightened or annoyed, llamas will react by spitting an unpleasant greenish grassy fluid at the cause of their discomfort.

Gallery of Llama