The llama is a South American relative of the camel, though the llama does not have a hump. These sturdy creatures are domestic animals used by the peoples of the Andes Mountains. (Their wild relatives are guanacos and vicuñas). Native peoples have used llamas as pack animals for centuries. Typically, they are saddled with loads of 50 to 75 pounds (23 to 34 kilograms). Under such weight they can cover up to 20 miles (32 kilometers) in a single day. Pack trains of llamas, which can include several hundred animals, move large amounts of goods over even the very rough terrain of the Andes.
Llamas are willing pack animals but only to a point. An overloaded llama will simply refuse to move. These animals often lie down on the ground and they may spit, hiss, or even kick at their owners until their burden is lessened.
Llamas graze on grass and, like cows, regurgitate their food and chew it as cud. They chomp on such wads for some time before swallowing them for complete digestion. Llamas can survive by eating many different kinds of plants, and they need little water. These attributes make them durable and dependable even in sparse mountainous terrain.
Llamas contribute much more than transportation to the human communities in which they live. Leather is made from their hides, and their wool is crafted into ropes, rugs, and fabrics. Llama excrement is dried and burned for fuel.
Llamas belong to the camel (camelid) family and are now native to South America. This wonderful animal has a unique history. About 40 million years ago, llamas thrived in the central plains of North America. During the ice age, they were considered as extinct, but actually they migrated to South America and started residing in the Andean Mountains. During the period of extinction, these animals were domesticated in the highlands of Peru by the Inca Indians of South America. The Inca Indians named them as “silent brothers” and worshipped them. For almost 3000 to 4000 years, llamas remained extinct to the world, except Peru. Then in the late 1800s and early 1900s, llamas were rediscovered by the private animal collectors. After the rediscovery, these animals were introduced to the place of their origin, North America. In 2007, there were 7 million llamas and alpacas in South America, but after their transfer to North America, now there is a considerable number llamas in US and Canada too. Llama provides soft wool and its fine undercoat is used to produce handicrafts and garments.