Llama Llama

Scientific Classification

Common Name
Genus Species
Lama (Peruvian name for animals in the camel family) glama (name given by Linnaeus, corruption of llama)

Fast Facts

The llama is a tall horse-shaped animal with a woolly coat of varying shades
Approximately 150 to 180 cm (5 to 6 ft.)
135 to 202.5 kg (300 to 450 lbs.)
Grazer and browser; diet includes grasses and leaves
Gestation lasts approximately 350 days; usually one offspring
Sexual Maturity
About 2 years
Life Span
Up to 20 years
Native to western South America, mostly Bolivia, Chile, and Peru
Inhabits mountain terrain; also domesticated in many areas
Global: Unknown
IUCN: Not listed
CITES: Not listed
USFWS: Not listed

Fun Facts

  1. Fossil footprints found in California indicate that llamas, relatives of camels, originated in North America. It is believed that the animals that moved north and crossed the Bering land bridge evolved into camels, while the ones that migrated to the south became the "lama" family.
  2. Llamas make a variety of sounds. The most common sound is a humming noise. A female will hum to her cria (offspring). Males orgle, which sounds like a gurgle, during breeding. If a couple of males decide to have a fight, they will start screaming at each other. If a llama perceives danger, it sends an alarm call, which warns the rest of the herd.
  3. In the wild, a male will find a high vantage point to watch over his herd of females and if he spots danger, will start alarm calling. Moments later every male in the vicinity will be alarm calling.
  4. The idea that llamas spit is true. Llamas usually spit to settle an argument over food or to decide which is the dominant llama. A female will also spit at a male to tell him to get lost. They do not normally spit at humans unless they are provoked. Their body language will warn other llamas; flattened ears are a signal to back off and are usually sufficient. The next threat may be a spitting sound, but using only air.

Ecology and Conservation

Also known as the "new world camel", llamas were domesticated in the early 1500s and are valuable work animals. 

They, like all camelids, differ from other mammals in that their red blood corpuscles are oval instead of round. This adaptation allows them to take in more oxygen, making them well suited to life at high altitudes. 

Their coat is used to make cloth and other material goods. 

In the wilds of South America, pumas (or mountain lions) are llamas' only natural predator. In North America, cougars and bears have been known to take llamas. 

In South America, thousands are used for meat each year.


Hoffman, C. and I. Asmus. Caring for Llamas and Alpacas. Rocky Mountain Llama and Alpaca Assoc. Pioneer Impressions, CO. 1989.

Nowak, R. M. Walker's Mammals of the World, Fifth Ed. Vol. II, Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991.

Parker, S. P. (ed.). Grzimeks Encyclopedia: Mammals. Vol. 5. New York: McGraw-Hill, pp. 82-95. 1989.