Llamas were domesticated from guanacos some 5,000 years ago. Their ancestors inhabited the plains of North America and migrated south to the Andes about three million years ago!
Llamas can be grouped broadly into two types: Ccara and Tampuli:
“Ccara”, the most commonly seen type in the UK, has a short to medium length coat with very short fibre on the legs and head. Ccara llamas tend to be larger than Tampuli.
The “Tampuli" is more heavily woolled than the Ccara, its coat extending down the legs and often distinguished by a woolly "topknot".
Llamas are the largest of the South American camelids, weighing anything up to 400lbs (180kg) and standing approximately 4 ft (1.25m) at the shoulder.
Elegant, with an exotic quality, llamas are strong, intelligent and hardy. They have a gentle temperament and inquisitive nature. They are found in a variety of colours, from solid white to black and with varying shades and mixes of brown and grey.
Their life span is generally around 18 years although some may live to be over 25.
Llamas are becoming increasingly popular as field pets, being gentle, quiet and undemanding. They live in harmony with other field stock and make good companions for lone ponies and other animals. They quickly learn to wear a halter and to be led. Llamas can be taught to pull a cart.
Llamas can be walked and will happily carry a pack, offering the long distance walker or the picnicking family both a fun companion and a willing helper!
A number of enterprises around the UK offer llama treks of varying lengths, from just a half day upwards.
Llamas have a double fleece comprising of outer guard hair and a fine, soft undercoat that can be hand spun. Llamas do not have to be shorn but the undercoat can be used to make an array of wonderful garments and the guard hair can be used for other products such as bags and rugs. The fleece comes in a variety of natural colours, from white to black with a wide range of browns and greys in between.
Although gentle by nature, some male llamas are overly protective of their group and can be used as livestock guardians, keeping predators from attacking lambs, ducks and poultry.
Guanacos are not domesticated in South America but there are a small number of domestic herds in the UK. Guanacos have an outstanding fleece, even finer than that of llamas. They are a honey shade of brown or cinnamon with white under-parts and a dark grey head. They stand approximately 1 to 1.5 metres at the withers, weighing 100-150 Kg.