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Llamas are members of the Camelid Family.  You may notice some similarities to their distant cousins, the camels.  Other South American camelids include alpacas, guanacos, and vicunas.  All these species have padded feet, rather than hoofs, and two toenails on each foot.  Sometimes these toenails need to be trimmed if they get too long.  Camelids also have a split upper lip, which helps them sift through grass or hay when they're eating.

Many people think llamas are ruminants because they chew a cud.   They are actually not, since they are classified as tylopoda, as are camels.  Llamas do chew a cud, like cattle or sheep.  But unlike cattle, llamas have only one stomach, which is divided into three parts.  Llamas chew in a figure-eight motion and can spend hours at a time, just sitting and chewing their cud.  Llamas have front teeth only on the bottom jaw and a toothless upper jaw, like a gum.  This helps them rip the grass off at ground level, leaving the roots for future growth.

How large do llamas get?  Llamas can be anywhere from about five feet to six feet tall at the top of their head when fully grown, or between three and four years of age.  Llamas can weigh anywhere between 250 pounds and 500 pounds, and live between 15 and 25 years.

Do llamas spit?  This is probably the most frequent question llama owners are asked.  The truth is that they do spit, but usually only at other llamas and nearly always over food.  Most people think all llamas spit at people, which is an impression you've gotten from a visit to a petting zoo.  A petting zoo isn't a good environment for a llama, because....

Llamas are herd animals.  A single llama is an unhappy llama, and usually the llamas in petting zoos are alone.  They get very lonely without other llamas to keep them company, and if they don't see other llamas, they start to think that people are llamas (or that they're a person, I am not sure which) and that's when they might spit at people.  So if you're thinking about buying a llama, don't:  buy two instead!  They will be much happier with a friend.

What do llamas eat?  Llamas eat grass hay, and sometimes grain.  Alfalfa grass can be a little rich for them if they're on a steady diet.  It's hard to get a llama to lose extra weight once they've put it on.

How much room do llamas need?  The rule of thumb is that you can have up to four llamas per acre.  So if you have only half an acre for them, stay with two.  They also need shelter from the wind, rain, and snow; a lot of llama owners put up a three-sided shelter for them.  This shelter should face southeast, unless that's where your bad weather comes from!

What are their personalities like?  We think llamas are a lot like big cats in temperament.  They can be affectionate or stand-offish, depending upon their mood.  They like to have fun, and the best reason we've found to have llamas is to watch them cavort at sunset, where they prong around the pasture.  It's rather like they're on pogo sticks, they bounce on all four feet at once, boing-boinging across the ground.

How do I find out more?  Look up llamas on your search engine, and contact someone from your area who has a website.  One good source is http://www.rmla.com

Questions?  mailto:llamasatbrokenwindmill.com