Llama Question and Answer Page heading Ambassador drawing




This page discusses different kinds of llamas, what they eat,
the kinds of sounds they make, what kind of shelter they need, and more.

(Updated April 14, 2012)


List of questions:

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This link will take you to a page that has a menu of all photos on the site
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All the photographs on these pages were taken by either
Jane or Brian Pinkerton.


Are there different kinds of llamas?

Not really, but there are different kinds of camelids. The “lama” family consists of four branches: Alpacas, Guanacos, Llamas and Vicuñas. Alpacas and llamas have been domesticated for approximately 4,000 years, whereas guanacos and vicuñas are mostly found in herds in the wild.

(Salamanders and calamari are definitely not part of the lama family.)


Alpacas in northern Chile

Alpaca

These two alpacas are grazing at about 14,000 feet in Northern Chile. The volcano in the background is Parinacota. Alpacas are raised for their fibre and should be shorn every year.





Guanco in Patagonia


Guanaco

A male guanaco guarding his territory in Torres del Paine National Park in Chilean Patagonia.

The indians in Peru, during Inca times, rounded up guanacos and slaughtered them for meat. In Patagonia, many guanacos were killed by the sheep ranchers because they competed for grazing land. Now there is a protected area for them in the park and the herds are recovering.





Stud Llama in Canada


Llama

Canadian Ambasador, this fine looking North American male llama looked totally different after he was shorn. The fibre was about twelve inches in length and extremely fine. You can usually shear llamas about every two years.

In Incan times, the High Priest would sacrifice a pure white llama on various occasions, such as planting time, the starting of a new building, or a dedication to the sun.

Llamas come in colours that vary from white to black along with many shades of brown, as well as all sorts of combinations and patterns.





Vicuna in northern Chile

Vicuña

These vicuñas have a tough time finding enough to eat in Northern Chile. The altiplano is pretty barren with not much vegetation.

The vicuña wool can be woven into cloth as light and smooth as silk, and in ancient Peru, the vicuña wool was reserved for the Inca and the royalty. The penalty was death for anyone else caught killing a vicuña or taking the wool.




For more information see:

Where do llamas come from?

Fossil footprints found in California indicate that llamas originated in North America. A great photograph of a fossil llama, approximately nine million years old, which was found in Florida, is shown on The Hall of Florida Fossils web page. The original camelids started out in North America and the animals that moved north and crossed the Bering land bridge evolved into camels, while the ones that migrated to the south became the “lama” family. Most llamas now are native to western South America, mostly Bolivia, Chile, and Peru.

Labrea Tar Pits

The La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles, California are the richest source of Pleistocene (Ice Age) fossils in the world. A thin film of water covering this bubbling tar bog formed this great prehistoric trap, in which the skeletons of llamas have been found as well as the Imperial elephant, largest of all land mammals, sabre tooth tigers, giant ground sloths, early camels and horses, giant wolves, bison, great American lions, condors and the only skeletal remains of the American peacock ever found. An exhibition of these fossils has been assembled at the museum there. The postcard on the right shows the tar pits.


For more information see:

Are they expensive?

A few years ago, when we were buying our first females they were quite expensive, but in the last couple of years the prices have dropped considerably. Our motto has always seemed to be “Buy high, sell low” and that is certainly been what we have done. Right now llamas are affordable to anyone. I was looking at the prices of horses the other day and realized that llamas are a bargain. As for sheepguards, a dog will cost much more than a llama and need much more training.

There are always people who will hype up a certain animal or bloodline, and the prices will reflect that. On the other hand there are a number of llamas, particularly older females, that go for bargain prices in auctions and they are being sold off as people cull their herds, getting rid of the problem animals. Find a reputable breeder and ask why an animal seems like such a bargain. Like anything, if you want the highest quality, you may have to pay a little more.


What do llamas eat?

Young llama eating a maple leaf

They graze on grasses and browse on leaves, and with their long necks, anything on the other side of a fence is fair game. As long as they have some decent hay and fresh water they are usually content. You will often see contented llamas lying around chewing their cud. A bale of hay will feed an adult llama for a week or so.

There are a number of poisonous plants that are found in yards and gardens that llamas have to protected from. Be particularly aware of azaleas and rhododendrons. We have a list of poisonous plants that are common in British Columbia and the Pacific Northwest of the US on our farm web page.


For more information see:

What kind of shelter do they need?

Llamas don’t particularly like to be shut up in a barn, but we usually keep newborns and their moms in overnight if the weather is either very wet or very cold. The adults are smart enough that if it starts to hail or thunderstorm they will normally run for an open barn or shelter.

Usually a three-sided shelter is sufficient, so that they can get out of a driving rain or get some shade. As well as protection from rain and snow they need to have shade in the summer, even though you will often see them lying in the heat with their bellies facing the sun. Most of them seem to prefer to stay out in the rain or snow, as long as it is not driven by a strong wind. They sleep lying down with their feet tucked under their body, and the wool hanging down on their sides protects them from the cold.


hay feeder

Recently we designed a hay feeder/shelter, where the hay is in the middle, with four triangular shaped areas on the outside. The llamas seem to like this, as they can lie under shelter facing out, with one hundred and eighty degree vision, and not feel trapped. It also cuts down on the arguing about hay.

We have a new page with step by step instructions for building a feeder/shelter like the one shown here.

We also have another page with step by step instructions for building a feeder/shelter using a fibreglass satellite dish for a roof.




What kind of sounds do they make?

If you have a fast connection you can go to a separate Humm Page with all of the sounds on it, but if you have a slower machine (like ours) then you may want to stay on this page and use the links to download each sound separately, particularly if you only want to hear one or two sounds. They will make a new window just for the one sound and then you can use the back button to return to this page. (Of course, you have to consider the time it will take to reload this page each time.)

Humming
Llamas make quite a variety of sounds. The most common sound is a humming noise. A female will hum (14k) to her cria, which seems to reassure the baby that mom is still around. The crias (18k) have a softer hum. If an animal is not sure about what is going on, such as being penned up, it may issue an “uncertain” hum (51k) or even a “worried” hum (20k).

This is a new mother (27k) calling her cria and this is the cria talking and the mom answering (47k). The baby is about four hours old in these recordings.

Kahaila, who is seven months old, has been weaned for a week or so and mom is on the other side of the fence. They are humming to each other, Kachina first, then Kahaila. (39k) It is not as if they don’t have lots of company, but they sound pathetic. If we don’t separate them the babies will often nurse for a year if their mothers will let them.

Orgling
Males will make a very strange sound while they are breeding which is called an “orgle”. (101k) They will sometimes make this sound if there is an open female on the other side of the fence. A breeding will typically last twenty minutes and will often go longer, with the male orgling continuously. All of the other females will gather by the fence to see what is going on as soon as they hear an orgle. Often the male is quite attentive to the female during the breeding process, nibbling lightly on her ears and rubbing her neck with his front feet. The female, on the other hand, usually looks completely bored and will sometimes eat grass, occasionally looking around at the male, as if to say “Aren’t you done yet?”

Naturally this orgling sound will get the attention of every male on the farm, which can cause a ruckus in some of the other fields. To try to keep them all happy, one day we had five studs all breeding at the same time.

Each male has a slightly different orgle. The previous orgle was Lazo who was actually trying to persuade Beverly to lie down. She didn’t but he was certainly trying, and eventually gave up. The next recording is Conquistador breeding Socorra. (56k) He was also having his toes trimmed at the time. This is often the easiest time to work on the male’s feet as his mind is completely occupied and doesn’t even seem to notice the manicuring.

Alarm Calling
If a llama perceives a danger, such as a strange dog or a coyote, they will make an alarm call (57k) which warns the rest of the herd. In the wild, a male guanaco will find a high vantage point to watch over his herd of females and if he spots a puma, will start alarm calling. Moments later every male in the vicinity will be alarm calling.

Females will occasionally make an alarm call. The next sound is Sarah Barnart alarm calling when she saw a deer grazing on the other side of her fence. The female alarm (102k) is usually not quite as loud as the male’s, but we have a couple of females who can compete quite well with the males.

Snorting
A male llama will occasionally make a snort (10k) sound at another male which seems to mean something like “You are lucky I can’t get over this fence . . .”. Snorting is often the prelude to a fight.

Screaming
If a couple of males decide to have a fight, they will start screaming at each other and can make an impressive amount of noise. A number of years ago some neighbours who live about a quarter of a mile away, thought that we were killing pigs judging by the racket going on when one male found a weak spot in the fence. You don’t want to get in between a couple of full-grown males when they get into a fight. These two went through the next fence as if it wasn’t even there. The one-by-four fence boards just snapped off when hit by the llama’s chest. A lot of biting each other’s legs, screaming, and neck wrestling goes into a show like this but eventually they will tire themselves out and they can be separated while the fences are being repaired.

In our “Field of Screams”, Pizarro shares a common fence with his father and every once in a while decides that he should be the boss llama. This is his father, Canadian Ambassador, screaming (14k) at him.

A male can really scream when fighting or when having something done that he doesn’t like. In this case Lazo was upset (23k) at having his toes trimmed!

Listen to more llama screaming sounds.

Clucking
Females will sometimes make a “clucking” sound at a male over the fence. As far as I can figure, it seems to mean “Back off! Don’t even think about it!” This is Beverly clucking at Lazo (41k). With head up, ears back, tail up, sometimes a female will add some emphasis to it by clucking followed by a snort (78k).

How big do they get?

Adult llamas are usually between 300 and 450 pounds and stand about five to six feet tall at the head. The newborns are often between 25 and 35 pounds and would be about 30 inches tall. Provided that the mother has plenty of milk, a baby normally would gain about a pound a day for the first couple of weeks. They reach their full growth somewhere between three and four years of age.

For more information see:

Do they bite?

Llamas don’t bite for defense. They have a hard plate on the top of their mouth, and the front teeth on the bottom are designed for cutting grass. Males, around the age of three, will grow fighting teeth at the back of their mouth. These teeth should be cut off, as they can cause serious damage to other males if they get into a fight.

llama fighting teeth llama fighting teeth


You can see the curved fighting teeth
at the back of the jaw.

These are razor sharp
and should be cut off
to be safe.




torn ear on llama



These fangs can make a nasty cut on another male’s ear as shown in the photo on the right.

Cholo is a calm, twenty-year-old gelding who had his ear split by a stud male on the other side of the fence.


Older llamas’ teeth

As llamas age, their teeth sometimes protrude. With alpacas, the teeth are often filed down for appearance sake, but the longer teeth have not seemed to bother our older ones, so we have left them alone. The photo at the top shows a normal llama with the split upper lip and no teeth showing. The six photos below that are some of our older llamas, the last two being a twenty-three year old female.


normal llama
older llama teeth older llama teeth older llama teeth
older llama teeth older llama teeth older llama teeth

Do llamas lose their baby teeth?

Yes, the baby teeth will usually fall out when the llama is about two years of age. Normally the adult teeth will push out the baby teeth but we had a two-year-old male that had somehow bumped his face and knocked out both front teeth and it was a month or so before the adult teeth finally showed up.


Translate this page!

Ok, so you’ve read everything on our page. If you would like to read it with a southern drawl for instance, copy the complete address — http://personal.smartt.com/~brianp/page01.html
— and go the following link:
Language Llama Web Translator

Paste in the URL and select the translation you want to see and press “Go”.

There are four translated examples from this page below:

Drawl:
Yes, thuh baby teeth will usually fall out wheyun thuh llama iz about tew years uh age. Normally thuh a-dult teeth will push out thuh baby teeth but way had uh two-year-old male thet had sumhow bumped his face an knocked out both frunt teeth an it wuz uh month or so before thuh a-dult teeth finally showed up.

Jive:
Dey graze on grasses and browse on leaves, and wid deir long necks, anydin’ on de oda’ side uh a fence be fair game. What it is, Mama! As long as dey gots’ some decent hay and fresh booze dey are usually content. You’s gots’ta often see contented llamas lyin’ around chewin’ deir cud. A bale uh hay gots’ta feed an adult llama fo’ some week o’ so.

Postmodern:
Llamas don’t particularly like to be shut up in the penetrated space of a barn, but the dysfunctional group usually keep newborns and their moms in the penetrated space of overnight if the weather is semiotically either very wet or very cold. The adults are smart enough that deconstructed if the semiotic object starts to hail or thunderstorm they will normally run for reevalution of Manichaeanism and an open barn or shelter.

Valley Speak:
Recently we designed a hay feeder/shelter, mostly, where thuh hay is like wow! in thuh middle, oh, baby, with four triangular shaped areas on thuh outside. The llamas seem to like this, like, wow, as they can lie under shelter facin’ out, oh, baby, with one hundred and eighty degree vision, like, and not feel trapped. It also cuts down on thuh arguin’ about hay.


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Index to the Question and Answer Pages

Page One (Present Page) Page Two Page Three
Are there different kinds of llamas? What are their feet like? Can you eat them?
Where do llamas come from? Do they spit? What is their temperament?
Are they expensive? Could I have one as a pet? Are they good with children?
What do llamas eat? What can you do with them? What kind of fencing do they need?
What kind of shelter do they need? Can you ride them? How do you transport them?
What kind of sounds do they make? Are they hard to train? When do they have their babies?
How big do they get? Are there any unpleasant odors? Do llamas need help when birthing?
Do they bite? What are their natural enemies? What do llama crias look like?
Do llamas lose their baby teeth? What do you call a baby llama? How much should my cria weigh?


Page Four Page Five Page Six
Cria questions, nursing, cria coats How do you shear llamas? Breeding questions
Is baby “poop”yellow? How long do llamas live? Eating bark
Llama feeding and treats Can llamas be used for therapy? Scientific classification
Behaviour questions How do I earn my llama’s trust? Birthing and dog questions
Llama gaits Handling young llamas Training commands
Llamas with horses, halters, gelding Will they eat out of my hand? How much space do they need?
How do I trim toenails? Why is my llama standoffish? Barbed wire and electric fences
Black colour Should we groom our youngsters? What is their spit like?
Can I have intact males together? What about leading youngsters around? Llama “poop”
Deadly nightshade Problem with choking Llamas and deep snow


Page Seven Page Eight Page Nine
Shedding wool Children’s llama books Llamas as sheep guards
Can llamas eat apples? Where can I find llama songs for children? Grooming brushes
Fighting with other animals Can llamas be fed alfalfa? How much can they carry?
Protecting other llamas Llamas and goats Do llamas swim?
Skittish llama and haltering Llama and new horse What colour are llamas?
Mouth abscess Llamas and coyotes What colour is llama milk?
Why is my llama afraid of me? Do llamas get ticks? Are there shows about llamas?
Intact males with other llamas Do llamas get fleas? Do they tolerate new dogs?
Can I have a cria with an intact male? Getting a llama to kush What is the best age to buy a llama?


Page Ten Page Eleven Page Twelve
Can they eat corn? Llamas vs alpacas How is “llama” pronounced?
Pooping in the barn Blue-eyed llamas When do you wean babies?
Llamas and cats How fast can a llama run? How tall do they get?
Llamas and freezing weather How do you estimate their age? What does clucking mean?
How far can they go? Llamas crossed with emus??? Llamas and heavy loads
Spitting llama Llamas eating pine trees Halter fitting
Touching young llamas Males and females together? Do llamas guard poultry?
Llama kisses How do you clean llama wool? What do you call a group of llamas?
What do you call a female llama? Will llamas eat blackberries? Llama anatomy


Page Thirteen Page Fourteen Page Fifteen
How are llamas identified? Cooling off llamas Breeding related llamas
Picketing llamas at night while hiking Breeding for spring or fall birthing Attacking a haltered llama
Will llamas avoid poisonous plants? Female won’t spit at the male Llamas eating fences
Moving a pregnant llama Stopping spitting behaviour Spotting a sick llama
I can’t get near my new cria How did the llama get its name? Feeding a greedy llama
My baby llama cries Telling genders apart My llama attacked me
Can I put the male with new baby? Washing a llama
Can males share a pasture with females? Poisoning treatment
Are people allergic to llamas? Fun questions we have received




Mount Lehman Llamas Farm Page