Llama (auchenia, Illiger), a ruminant animal representing the camel family in the western hemisphere. The dentition is as follows; incisors 2/6, the upper placed at the side of the intermaxillary bone close to the canines, which they much resemble; of the six lower incisors, the four median are very broad, curved, and gouge-shaped, the two external near to and resembling the canines; canines 1/1-1/1; molars 5/4-5/4. There is no hump on the back; the soles are divided into two toes, each with a strong horny nail or hoof with a thick pad beneath; the ears long, pointed, and movable; the upper lip is swelled and cleft, the head camel-like, the orbits prominent, and the nose small; the form is less heavy and the appearance less stupid than in the camel; the head is carried nearly perpendicular; the size and strength are much inferior to those of the camel; there is a conformation resembling the camel's hump in the shape of a thick bed of fat under the skin; as they kneel down like the camels, they have callosities on the knees of the fore legs; the stomach has a system of superficial cells, which in some degree may be considered equivalent to the water reservoirs in the camel.
The structure of the feet is not adapted for travelling on sandy wastes, but for securing a firm hold among the mountains where they dwell; their native region is the slopes of the Andes, especially in Peru, and, though in a tropical latitude, often within the limits of perpetual snow. In the wild state they are vigilant and shy, living in flocks upon the mountains, and descending into the plains in search of food. When irritated they eject the contents of their mouth, which are very disagreeable, upon their' assailant; they have the habit of dropping their excrement in particular spots, and from this propensity the natives are able to collect considerable quantities, which they use as fuel. There appear to be three species of the genus, viz.: the wild guanaco (A. huanaco, Tschudi), of which the llama is probably the domesticated variety; the alpaca or paco (A. alpaca, Tschudi), described in its alphabetical order; and the vicuna (A. vicugna, Tschudi). These are easily tamed, and are susceptible of considerable attachment to their keepers. The guanaco is found in the Andes from northern Peru to the neighborhood of the straits of Magellan, in the former inhabiting the mountains in small companies, but in Patagonia frequenting the plains in considerable herds.
About 3 ft. high at the shoulder, the head is carried at the height of about 5 ft.; the color is reddish brown, and the hair tolerably long; they are hunted for the skin and flesh. Living mostly at an elevation of 8,000 to 12,000 ft. above the sea, they feed chiefly upon tough grassy reeds, mosses, lichens, and such shrubs as will grow at low temperatures; they do not require drink as long as succulent herbage can be obtained; their chisel-shaped and strong lower incisors, interlocking with the upper teeth and meeting the firm pad of the upper jaw, enable them to feed upon vegetable substances too hard for ordinary cattle; and their long neck, cleft lip, pointed nose, and extensile tongue permit the collection of food in the interstices of rocks, and from the tops of tall shrubs. Sensitive to heat, they increase in situations where an arctic temperature prevails, even though under a tropical sun, far above the abodes of man. The young may be hunted with dogs and the lasso, but the adults must be shot; the flesh of the young is tender, but that of the old only fit for drying and salting.
The domesticated llama (the A. lama of such as consider it a distinct species) takes the place of the camel and the horse among the Indians of Peru and Chili. It is of about the size of the guanaco, but of somewhat more compact form, and the hair is varied with black, white, gray, and other colors, as in other domesticated animals. From the elevation of the abdomen in the pelvic region the posterior portion of the body seems weak; 90 or 100 lbs. is as much as they can easily carry, but the ability to travel over rugged declivities made them valuable beasts of burden to the natives; their place is now to a great extent supplied by mules; their rate of travel is only 10 or 15 m. a day. They are valued principally for their long woolly hair, from which the Indians make articles of clothing; the skin makes good leather, the dung is used for fuel, and the flesh and milk as articles of food. They require very little care; at night they are put into an enclosure, where they sleep without protection, though the temperature falls even in summer below the freezing point; allowed to wander among the mountains during the day in search of food, they return like cattle at night to their enclosures.
The alpaca, noticed under that title, considerably smaller than the llama, is domesticated by the Peruvians, though not used as a beast of burden; it is valued principally for its long and silky hair, which is made into the fine cloths familiar to all. The vicuna is the smallest species, about 2 1/2 ft. high at the shoulder; the color is reddish yellow on the back, and whitish on the belly; it is a wild animal, of great value for its very fine hair. The llama and alpaca have a period of gestation of 11 or 12 months, and only one is usually produced at a birth; they are weaned when six months old, and begin to bear at the age of two years; the former are not put at work till the end of the third year. From the fact that when the three animals above mentioned can be made to breed together the offspring is sterile, it is inferred that they constitute different species; these hybrids are much handsomer and have longer and heavier fleeces than the original stocks. - There have been several attempts to introduce the llama into the United States and Europe, but as yet with little success; though thriving for a time on the usual food of cattle and sheep, they begin to fail unless they can browse on the inferior kinds of grass, with a supply of succulent roots instead of rich food and grains; in Peru, maize or millet in the soft milky stage is frequently given to them; in Chili they eat a coarse clover, and here would thrive on the same, as well as pea vines, bean stalks, buckwheat straw, and such other coarse food as our cattle would reject; they invariably suffer from disease of the skin when confined in low places, and can only be restored by pure mountain air and frequent bathing.
A sketch of the attempts to introduce the llama into the United States is given in the agricultural portion of the patent office report for the year 1857; none of these having been successful, probably from the unsuitableness of the climate and elevation in the Atlantic and gulf states, it is there advised to place them on the vast and high plains to the east of the Rocky mountains, between Ion. 20° and 30° W. from Washington, extending from Texas to the arctic regions; here the nature of the soil, the climate, and the herbage (particularly the buffalo grass) seem specially suited for the llama; here, with the herds of wild cattle, horses, buffaloes, antelopes, deer, and other ruminants, if unmolested for a few years, they would probably increase immensely, affording a great source of wealth in their skins, flesh, and wool, besides being useful as beasts of burden in places inaccessible even to mules. In the autumn of 1857, 38 llamas were imported into New York from Peru, and having been kept during the winter at the " Dyckman farm " in the city, near King's Bridge, were offered at auction in March, 1858. The flock was 72 when it started from Peru; exposed to the perils of the isthmus of Panama in the hottest season, to the railroad transit, and to a crowded passage in a small vessel, with insufficient and improper food, it was no wonder that about half of them died before reaching New York. They wintered as well as sheep of the same condition, though fed on dry forage; the flock were all broken to the halter and the pack, and were docile, tractable, intelligent, in color resembling brown and black sheep; they did not bring $100 each (the price demanded) at this sale, though some were subsequently sold to go to Australia at a little more than this; what became of the flock is not definitely known.
The wool of the llama, 4 to 6 in. long, fine and soft, with a few longer coarse hairs, resembles that of a black sheep; an average fleece will weigh 10 lbs., and its value is great.
Llama (Auchenia lama).