Llama (camel)

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A pack llama in Rocky Mountain National Park

A pack llama in Rocky Mountain National Park

Superordinate : Laurasiatheria
Order : Artiodactyla (Artiodactyla)
Subordination : Callus soles (Tylopoda)
Family : Camels (Camelidae)
Genre : Llamas ( lama )
Type : lama
Scientific name
Lama glama
( Linnaeus , 1758)
Distribution area:
  • Around 1520 (Lama)
  • Around 1999 (llama and alpaca)
  • The lama ( Lama glama ) is a type of camel . It is common in the South American Andes and is a form of domestic animal derived from the guanaco .


    Llamas reach a shoulder height of 110 to 130 cm, sometimes even up to 140 cm and a weight of 120 to 150 kg. In contrast to the old world camels ( dromedaries and trample ), llamas do not have a hump. As with most pets, the color of the llama is very variable. There are plain white, brown and black llamas as well as those that are spotted or patterned differently in these colors. There are also spotted llamas. Like Old World camels, llamas have sole pads (tylopods) on their feet and their upper lip is split and very flexible.


    The animals reach sexual maturity at the age of two. In llama mares, ovulation is only triggered by mating (provoked or induced ovulation). After a gestation period of eleven to twelve months, a foal called Cria is born. In extremely rare cases, there are twin births.


    Llamas feed on herbaceous plants , grasses , including the sweet and feather grass families , as well as shrubs , lichens, and leaves.


    Llamas in San Pedro de Atacama in Chile
    A mother and her cria
    Llama portrait


    The wild ancestral form of the lama is the northern subspecies of the guanaco Lama guanicoe cacsilensis . Based on archaeological findings and DNA analyzes, an independent domestication is assumed in several places in the Andes. The earliest evidence is available from archaeological sites in the Peruvian puna at sea levels of around 3200 meters, which are up to 5000 years old. Indications of domesticated animals are about the size (llamas are larger than guanacos), the location and structure of the settlement sites and the age structure of the excavated bones (higher proportion of very young animals). Since all American camel relatives ( alpaca , vicuna , lama, guanaco) can be crossed fruitfully with one another, extensive hybridizations are possible in the modern domestic animal population and actually take place after genetic analyzes. More recently, llama and alpaca have been crossed with one another on a large scale in order to obtain animals that are larger and therefore more productive than alpacas, but which are supposed to provide finer and more expensive alpaca wool.

    All civilizations in the Andean region used the lama. It was mainly used as a pack animal - no other animal was domesticated for this purpose on the American double continent. In addition, the wool can also be used, although here the alpaca was considered more valuable. The Indian peoples of the Andes also ate the llama's meat, made leather from its skin, made candles from its fat and used the excrement as fuel. The lama was of paramount importance to the Inca civilization . Over ten million llamas were kept by the Inca and their vassal peoples at the time of the Spanish conquest of South America, with the Spanish Conquista the animal gradually lost its importance in favor of horses and sheep . It is believed that the population declined by about 90 percent in the hundred years that followed the conquest.

    Todays use

    The llama is still used as a pack animal in inaccessible regions of the Andes. A total of around three million llamas are kept in South America today, mainly for their meat and wool. But it is now also bred outside of South America. Llamas are also bred in Europe and the wool is shorn and processed.

    Behavior and hierarchy

    Llamas are used to living in flocks, they are also classic escape animals. However, this is not as pronounced in llamas as it is in horses, for example. Such a herd is led by a lead mare. The females are always higher in rank than the males. However, they are responsible for defending the herd. Battles of rank among stallions are fought with angry screams and bites as well as chases until one of the males subordinates to the other. Regardless, llamas are peaceful herd animals. The displaced young stallions often live together in a herd of stallions.

    Body language

    Llamas signal their mood through their posture. If the ears are upright and the tail is hanging down, the llama is fine and relaxed. If the tail goes up, this is an expression of increased alertness and tension. If the ears are put back and the tail down, the lama signals that it is subordinate to the higher-ranking lama or the person who leads it. If the ears are flat and the tail is high, the llama does not feel well. If you can hear gurgling noises, you should be careful. If the ears are set longer and another llama is too close, it can actually spit a warning shot with its nose upright, which happens regularly between the animals. The causes of spitting are feed envy, ranking (fights between the animals) or mating behavior (a mare signals that the stallion should no longer mate her - he is "spat out").

    Spitting and aggressive behavior

    Llamas usually spit on their fellow species and not on humans. When a llama spits on a person, it often indicates a miscarriage or the llama has been extremely molested or even tortured. Llamas usually spit in order to show their dominance in the herd, to clarify the hierarchy between the conspecifics or to keep pushy conspecifics at a distance. In doing so, they demonstrate astonishing accuracy. Half-digested stomach contents are usually spit out, but only in small amounts. The semi-liquid, greenish mass is foul-smelling, but otherwise harmless and easy to wash off. Mated llama mares also spit on llama stallions to prevent them from mating them again. This makes it possible to determine whether the llama mare is pregnant.

    Berserk male syndrome (BMS) represents a particularly aggressive behavior of some young, mostly male llamas and alpacas towards people as a result of incorrect imprinting . It occurs with the onset of sexual maturity and can lead to aggressive and dangerous dominance behavior towards humans.

    Lamas in therapy

    Because of their good-natured, gentle character, llamas are very suitable for animal-assisted therapy .

    Web links

    Commons : Lama  - collection of images
    Wiktionary: Lama  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

    Individual evidence

    1. Christopher Cebra, Jane Vaughan, Matthias Gauly: Neuweltkameliden: keeping, breeding, diseases. Georg Thieme Verlag , 2010. ISBN 3830411561 , p. 75.
    2. Miranda Kadwell, Matilde Fernandez, Helen F. Stanley, Ricardo Baldi, Jane C. Wheeler, Raul Rosadio, Michael W. Bruford: Genetic analysis reveals the wild ancestors of the llama and the alpaca. In: Proceedings of the Royal Society London. Series B vol. 268 no. 1485, 2001, pp. 2575-2584. doi : 10.1098 / rspb.2001.1774
    3. ^ A b c Jane C. Wheeler: South American camelids - past, present and future. In: Journal of Camelid Science. 5, 2012, pp. 1-24.
    4. ^ Peter W. Stahl: Animal domestication in South America. In: Elaine Silverman, William H. Isbell (Eds.): The Handbook of South American Archeology. 2008, ISBN 978-0-387-75228-0 , p. 128.
    5. ^ Gerhard Rappersberger: Llamas and Alpacas. 2000.
    6. Birgit Appel-Wimschneider: Interesting facts about llamas at: orenda-ranch.com , undated, accessed on April 29, 2018