AppearanceThe following characteristics apply especially to llamas. Dentition of adults:-incisors 1/3 canines 1/1, premolars 2/2, molars 3/2; total 32. In the upper jaw, a compressed, sharp, pointed laniariform incisor near the hinder edge of the premaxilla is followed in the male at least by a moderate-sized, pointed, curved true canine in the anterior part of the maxilla. The isolated canine-like premolar which follows in the camels is not present. The teeth of the molar series which are in contact with each other consist of two very small premolars and three broad molars, constructed generally like those of ''Camelus''. In the lower jaw, the three incisors are long, spatulate, and procumbent; the outer ones are the smallest. Next to these is a curved, suberect canine, followed after an interval by an isolated minute and often deciduous simple conical premolar; then a contiguous series of one premolar and three molars, which differ from those of ''Camelus'' in having a small accessory column at the anterior outer edge.
The skull generally resembles that of ''Camelus'', the larger brain-cavity and orbits and less-developed cranial ridges being due to its smaller size. The nasal bones are shorter and broader, and are joined by the premaxilla.
⤷ cervical 7,
⤷ dorsal 12,
⤷ lumbar 7,
⤷ sacral 4,
⤷ caudal 15 to 20.
The ears are rather long and slightly curved inward, characteristically known as "banana" shaped. There is no dorsal hump. The feet are narrow, the toes being more separated than in the camels, each having a distinct plantar pad. The tail is short, and fibre is long, woolly and soft.
In essential structural characteristics, as well as in general appearance and habits, all the animals of this genus very closely resemble each other, so whether they should be considered as belonging to one, two, or more species is a matter of controversy among naturalists.
The question is complicated by the circumstance of the great majority of individuals which have come under observation being either in a completely or partially domesticated state. Many are also descended from ancestors which have previously been domesticated, a state which tends to produce a certain amount of variation from the original type. The four forms commonly distinguished by the inhabitants of South America are recognized as distinct species, though with difficulties in defining their distinctive characteristics.
⤷ the llama, ''Lama glama'' ;
⤷ the alpaca, ''Vicugna pacos'' ;
⤷ the guanaco , ''Lama guanicoe'' ; and
⤷ the vicuña, ''Vicugna vicugna''
The llama and alpaca are only known in the domestic state, and are variable in size and of many colors, being often white, brown, or piebald. Some are grey or black. The guanaco and vicuña are wild, the former being endangered, and of a nearly uniform light-brown color, passing into white below. They certainly differ from each other, the vicuña being smaller, more slender in its proportions, and having a shorter head than the guanaco. The vicuña lives in herds on the bleak and elevated parts of the mountain range bordering the region of perpetual snow, amidst rocks and precipices, occurring in various suitable localities throughout Peru, in the southern part of Ecuador, and as far south as the middle of Bolivia. Its manners very much resemble those of the chamois of the European Alps; it is as vigilant, wild, and timid. The fiber is extremely delicate and soft, and highly valued for the purposes of weaving, but the quantity which each animal produces is minimal.
Alpacas are descended from wild vicuna ancestors, while domesticated llamas are descended from wild guanaco ancestors, though a considerable amount of hybridization between the two species has occurred.
Differential characteristics between llamas and alpacas include the llama's larger size, longer head, and curved ears. Alpaca fiber is generally more expensive, but not always more valuable. Alpacas tend to have a more consistent color throughout the body. The most apparent visual difference between llamas and camels is that camels have a hump or humps and llamas do not.
BehaviorLlamas which are well-socialized and trained to halter and lead after weaning are very friendly and pleasant to be around. They are extremely curious and most will approach people easily. However, llamas that are bottle-fed or over-socialized and over-handled as youngsters will become extremely difficult to handle when mature, when they will begin to treat humans as they treat each other, which is characterized by bouts of spitting, kicking and neck wrestling. Anyone having to bottle-feed a cria should keep contact to a minimum and stop as soon as possible.
When correctly reared, llamas spitting at a human is a rare thing. Llamas are very social herd animals, however, and do sometimes spit at each other as a way of disciplining lower-ranked llamas in the herd. A llama's social rank in a herd is never static. They can always move up or down in the social ladder by picking small fights. This is usually done between males to see which will become dominant. Their fights are visually dramatic, with spitting, ramming each other with their chests, neck wrestling and kicking, mainly to knock the other off balance. The females are usually only seen spitting as a means of controlling other herd members.
While the social structure might always be changing, they live as a family and they do take care of each other. If one notices a strange noise or feels threatened, a warning bray is sent out and all others come to alert. They will often hum to each other as a form of communication.
The sound of the llama making groaning noises or going "mwa" is often a sign of fear or anger. If a llama is agitated, it will lay its ears back. One may determine how agitated the llama is by the materials in the spit. The more irritated the llama is, the further back into each of the three stomach compartments it will try to draw materials from for its spit.
An "orgle" is the mating sound of a llama or alpaca, made by the sexually aroused male. The sound is reminiscent of gargling, but with a more forceful, buzzing edge. Males begin the sound when they become aroused and continue throughout the act of procreation—from 15 minutes to more than an hour.Using llamas as livestock guards in North America began in the early 1980s, and some sheep producers have used llamas successfully since then. They are used most commonly in the in western regions of the United States, where larger predators, such as the coyote, are prevalent. Typically, a single gelding is used.
Research suggests the use of multiple guard llamas is not as effective as one. Multiple males tend to bond with one another, rather than with the livestock, and may ignore the flock. A gelded male of two years of age bonds closely with its new charges and is instinctively very effective in preventing predation. Some llamas appear to bond more quickly to sheep or goats if they are introduced just prior to lambing. Many sheep and goat producers indicate a special bond quickly develops between lambs and their guard llama and the llama is particularly protective of the lambs.
Using llamas as guards has eliminated the losses to predators for many producers. The value of the livestock saved each year more than exceeds the purchase cost and annual maintenance of a llama. Although not every llama is suited to the job, most are a viable, nonlethal alternative for reducing predation, requiring no training and little care.
ReproductionLlamas have an unusual reproductive cycle for a large animal. Female llamas are induced ovulators. Through the act of mating, the female releases an egg and is often fertilized on the first attempt. Female llamas do not go into estrus .
Like humans, llama males and females mature sexually at different rates. Females reach puberty at approximately 12 months old; males do not become sexually mature until approximately three years of age.In harem breeding, the male is left with females most of the year.
For field breeding, a female is turned out into a field with a male llama and left there for some period of time. This is the easiest method in terms of labor, but the least useful in terms of prediction of a likely birth date. An ultrasound test can be performed, and together with the exposure dates, a better idea of when the cria is expected can be determined.
Hand breeding is the most efficient method, but requires the most work on the part of the human involved. A male and female llama are put into the same pen and breeding is monitored. They are then separated and rebred every other day until one or the other refuses the breeding. Usually, one can get in two breedings using this method, though some studs have routinely refused to breed a female more than once. The separation presumably helps to keep the sperm count high for each breeding and also helps to keep the condition of the female llama's reproductive tract more sound. If the breeding is not successful within two to three weeks, the female is bred once again.
CulturalThe Moche people frequently placed llamas and llama parts in the burials of important people, as offerings or provisions for the afterlife. The Moche culture of pre-Columbian Peru depicted llamas quite realistically in their ceramics.
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