Why Llamas?

Discussion Topic Created:
Sunday, April 26, 2015
The llama is a South American relative of the camel, though the llama does not have a hump.
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The llama is a South American relative of the camel, though the llama does not have a hump. These sturdy creatures are domestic animals used by the peoples of the Andes Mountains. (Their wild relatives are guanacos and vicuñas). Native peoples have used llamas as pack animals for centuries. Typically, they are saddled with loads of 50 to 75 pounds (23 to 34 kilograms). Under such weight they can cover up to 20 miles (32 kilometers) in a single day. Pack trains of llamas, which can include several hundred animals, move large amounts of goods over even the very rough terrain of the Andes.

Llamas are willing pack animals but only to a point. An overloaded llama will simply refuse to move. These animals often lie down on the ground and they may spit, hiss, or even kick at their owners until their burden is lessened.

Llamas graze on grass and, like cows, regurgitate their food and chew it as cud. They chomp on such wads for some time before swallowing them for complete digestion. Llamas can survive by eating many different kinds of plants, and they need little water. These attributes make them durable and dependable even in sparse mountainous terrain.

Llamas contribute much more than transportation to the human communities in which they live. Leather is made from their hides, and their wool is crafted into ropes, rugs, and fabrics. Llama excrement is dried and burned for fuel. Even in death, llamas can serve their human owners—some people slaughter them and eat their meat.

Llamas are raised for meat, fiber, dairy products, as pack animals, and as pets. The predominant market for llamas in the United States is the pet market, however other areas gaining exposure include mountain packing, the tourist industry and as guard animals in sheep flocks. As pack animals, llamas can carry 25-30% of their own body weight for several miles. Llamas also have a fine undercoat which can be used to make garments from. The coarser outer guard hair is used for rugs, wall-hangings and lead ropes.

Llamas average 5.5 - 6 feet tall and weight in at 280-450 pounds.

High in the Andes Mountains, llamas have been helping people carry their wares for thousands of years. The llama (pronounced "yama"), is a member of the camel family, and is one of the oldest domesticated animals. Their thick coats of wool and honed survival instincts enable them to thrive in one of the most extreme climates on earth.

The lost Incan city of Machu Pichu is perched on a high saddle, between two jagged mountain peaks, 2,000 ft. above the mighty Urubamba River in Peru. So remote is the location, that the Spanish conquistadors never found it!

The Incan empire, which flourished from about 1200 to 1532 AD; depended on the llama to transport trade goods, root crops, and building materials to extremely difficult to reach locations throughout the South American highlands.

Revered by the Andean people, llamas are much like the bison to the indigineous cultures of North America. The llama is the second most depicted form in Andean art, next to the sun (which was their deity). This "whistling llama pot" is well over a thousand years old. The Quechua people of the Andes call the llama, "Silent Brother".

Selectively bred for gentleness, for over five thousand years, a well trained llama will eagerly follow adults and children alike. Our llamas have enabled us to facilitate wilderness experiences with a wide range of people; from groups of enthusiastic young trailblazers to experienced mountaineers, to self-proclaimed couch potatoes.

Llamas are the perfect low-impact, high altitude pack animal. Their leather padded, two-toed feet and natural agility give them a sure-footedness akin to mountain goats and bighorn sheep. Their tracks and droppings are similar to an elk's, and have little impact on fragile wilderness trails. They exempify the "leave no trace" wilderness ethic we practice and teach.

Llamas are great hiking companions; alert and curious.

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