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Llamas, Lama glama
Llamas - a 10 day old cria

Photo by Andy Smyth, Photographer. ©

The llama is a kind of South American camel, domesticated by the Incas as early as 5,500 BC.

Strange burials in Peru

A thousand years ago in Southern Peru llamas and alpacas were buried in shallow pits under floors, some with colour-matched guinea pigs.


Llama are found scattered throughout the Andes. It is kept mainly as a pack animal and for its wool. Like other camelids (i.e. the Alpaca ), it will spit its stomach contents ( gross eh! ) at an enemy to discourage attack.

Llamas' adaptations include a woolly coat and, uniquely, oval shaped red blood cells allowing extra oxygen-carrying capacity vital in the high Andes.

Camels and Llamas' family resemblances extend to their unusual mating behaviour, which involves the female's squatting on the ground.


A second female llama calf, or cria as a baby llama is known, was born in early August 1998. Initially, we had intended to call her after Rosina's baby (the two keepers in the section were simultaneously off on maternity leave), but her baby turned out to be a boy - Jack. Meanwhile, it is gratifying to see how strong these calves are, both fathered by new male, Henry , from Woburn Safari Park. Our previous male, the produce of regular swaps through the years with Blair Drummond Safari Park, near Stirling, had probably become rather inbred, which resulted in weak calves with heart defects.

Llamas used as Guards

Textile manufacturers and land owners have always sought to diversify the natural wool producer of Britain -the sheep - by adding exotics like llamas and alpacas from time to time.
In the second half of the 19th century hundreds were imported by landowners in the north of England, some of which made their way up to Scotland.
Generally speaking these did not do too well, the wet British climate playing a significant part.
Cold they don't mind, but combine it with driving rain and sure fire trouble follows.
It has been fascinating to observe the alternative uses to which llamas have been put in recent years.
Sheep farmers here and in the United States have used them as alert guards to protect their charges from foxes and stray dogs.
But before anyone is tempted to rush out and buy a llama or two, remember, domestic livestock need to be habituated to this strange long-necked beast. Just plonking one down in a field usually results in immediate panic in all directions.