Llamas belong to the camel family (camelids) and are a domesticated animal native to the Andes Mountain range. They are closely related to the alpaca, guanaco and vicuna.
The llama has been used as a pack animal by Andean cultures since the Pre-Columbian era. They were domesticated from guanacos in the Andean highlands of Peru some 4,000 to 5,000 years ago, and are among the oldest domestic animals in the world.
In addition to being an excellent beast of burden, they also provide native herdsmen with meat, milk, fiber for clothing, hides for shelter, and manure pellets for fuel. The Inca Indians of Peru also used them as a sacrificial offering to the gods.
Members of the camel family originated on the central plains of North America about 40 million years ago. Fossil evidence shows that around 3 million years ago llama-like animals migrated to South America where they evolved and flourished. The camelids in North America became extinct by the end of the last ice-age some 10,000 to 12,000 years ago.
Llamas are very social animals and live with others as a herd. Their diet consists mainly of leaves, grasses, and shoots. Their main predators are humans, pumas, and coyotes.
An adult llama can be as tall as 5 feet at the shoulder and weigh from 280 to 450 pounds. Long hair covers the entire animal and ranges in color from white to black. It can be solid, spotted, or marked in a variety of patterns. Their hair is soft and luxurious, and is very popular with spinners, knitters and weavers.
Llamas have a life span of about 15 to 25 years. Because llamas are specifically suited to the harsh environment of their Andean homeland, they are very hardy and can travel some 20 miles a day carrying a heavy pack. They can be stubborn and temperamental, and will spit at things if irritated or feel threatened. They are able to learn simple tasks after only a few repetitions.
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