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Five Facts You Might Not Have Known About Llamas

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Who doesn’t love a llama? These curly haired cuties are full of surprises and have become synonymous with Peru. The high altitude of the Andes mountains has made the llamas and alpacas (yes, there is a difference) vital to Peruvians’ way of life. Here are a few things that might surprise even you, you llama super-fan.

  1. Llamas have oval shaped blood cells.

    Most llamas live between 24,000 and 42,000 feet in elevation. In contrast, Denver, Colorado, the Mile High City, is just 5,280 feet above sea level. That’s a huge difference, and it’s no surprise that when you land in Peru it is recommended travelers take a couple of days to get used to the elevation differences. Llamas are particularly well adapted to the harsh climates and rugged terrain they live in. In order to store more oxygen in their bodies, Llama blood cells have taken on an ovular shape in order to hold more oxygen at higher elevations where there is less to be found. These elongated blood cells also help to protect llamas from dehydration!

  2. Llamas need a pack.

    Llamas are super clique-y! They have a pecking order for every llama in the pack. In an ideal setting, six llamas make up a pack with each llama knowing where it falls in the ranking of one through six. The head llama is very aware that it is his responsibility to protect the pack and keep everyone in line. Often the second in command will challenge the leader. Challenges are one on one battles for dominance with the llamas charging at each other and locking their necks together. The victor is the one who doesn’t back down from the other spitting in its face. If there are more than six llamas around, then llamas group together and fight other packs for the best land and food.

    While a llama can never be a solo animal, they don’t necessarily need other llamas around in order to be happy. A llama can be perfectly content ruling as the head of the heard of goats or sheep. Since the llama’s instincts kick in to take care of the pack much like other head llamas, the lone llama gets the best of both worlds - being in charge and never having his authority challenged.

  3. Llamas don’t spit (at people).

    Really??? Really! Llamas don’t really consider people as animals to assert their authority over. We are kind of like birds to them - interesting to look at and listen to, but of no real consequence at all. Llamas only spit at each other as a warning that a lower ranked llama is encroaching on something of theirs or to challenge another llama for their ranking in the pack. So you’re safe. Really. Give that llama a kiss!

    Never kiss an alpaca though. They will spit on you faster that you can say alpaca us a picnic.

  4. Llamas talk with their ears.

    They also hum and wiggle their tails to talk to each other. Hums typically are a sign of displeasure with another llama, person or creature. There is still much to be understood about how llamas communicate with each other, but their ears are in near constant movement reflecting seemingly reflecting what is happening around them and in relation to each other.


5. Llamas have really short tongues.

If you’re traveling to Peru, then you know you’re about to see some llamas up close! One thing to keep in mind when going in for a spit-free pet is that llamas have short tongues. What do tongues have to do with petting a llama anyway? Because of their short tongues, baby llamas never have the experience of being licked clean by their mother, so the petting sensation your dog loves on their belly is quite foreign and surprising to a llama. Chances are, they won’t tolerate it and wander away from you. For most fluff for your pet, try petting the llama under his chin, on his head or around his neck.

Want to know more about llamas? Check out our story on Llama Blessings!