The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Llama

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Edition of 1920. See also Llama on Wikipedia, and the disclaimer.

LLAMA, lä'mạ, one domesticated form (often specifically distinguished as Lama glama) of the huanaco (q.v.), the other being the wool-bearing alpaca (q.v.). It is larger than the wild huanaco (about three feet at the shoulder), and may be white, brown, black or variegated with patches of all three colors. This animal was domesticated long before the era of the Incas. When the Spaniards conquered Peru they found hundreds of thousands in use as riding animals and beasts of burden in the southern part of the country; and as they were the only domestic ungulate of the kind in South America their importance was very great. The Spanish conquerors adopted llamas as burden-beasts, and soon long strings, in charge of a few native drivers, were passing back and forth between the mountain mines and the coast, laden with ore or bullion or with supplies, a proper burden not exceeding 120 pounds, which may be carried about 12 miles a day. Until toward the middle of the 19th century this remained almost the only means of carriage in the Cordilleras, where the endurance of cold, ability to live on the mountain herbage and sure-footedness peculiarly fitted them for this service. Only the mature males were used as burden-beasts, the smaller females being reserved for their milk and flesh, which resembles mutton, and is extensively eaten. Llamas produce only one offspring annually, so that care is needed to sustain the herds which are still numerous and valuable. Various breeds are known, but the differences are not very great. The wool, which is inferior to alpaca, is used among the native Indians for the manufacture of textile fabrics. The skin is made into leather. The dried dung is used for fuel, and the milk is also employed as an article of native diet. When overloaded these animals lie down and refuse to budge; when irritated they have the habit of kicking at their adversaries, supplemented by the ejection of food when undergoing remastication in the mouth, along with quantities of evil-smelling saliva. An unsuccessful attempt has been made to acclimatize them in Australia.