The lost Incan city of Machu Pichu is perched on a high saddle, between two jagged mountain peaks, 2,000 ft. above the mighty Urubamba River in Peru. So remote is the location, that the Spanish conquistadors never found it!
The Incan empire, which flourished from about 1200 to 1532 AD; depended on the llama to transport trade goods, root crops, and building materials to extremely difficult to reach locations throughout the South American highlands.
Revered by the Andean people, llamas are much like the bison to the indigenous cultures of North America. The llama is the second most depicted form in Andean art, next to the sun (which was their deity). This “whistling llama pot” is well over a thousand years old. The Quechua people of the Andes call the llama, “Silent Brother”.
Selectively bred for gentleness, for over five thousand years, a well trained llama will eagerly follow adults and children alike. Llamas have enabled us to facilitate wilderness experiences with a wide range of people; from groups of enthusiastic young trailblazers to experienced mountaineers, to self-proclaimed couch potatoes.
Llamas are the perfect low-impact, high altitude pack animal. Their leather padded, two-toed feet and natural agility give them a sure-footedness akin to mountain goats and bighorn sheep. Their tracks and droppings are similar to an elk’s, and have little impact on fragile wilderness trails. They exemplify the “leave no trace” wilderness ethic.
Llamas are great hiking companions. They are alert, curious, and just as excited to be in the mountains as we are. They walk at a comfortable pace for hiking humans; and their keen senses of smell, hearing, and sight will often point out a distant herd of deer or elk for us. They have captured our hearts with their unique, “llama-like” behavior and amusing personalities. Their presence makes our time in the wilderness even more memorable.
“Mountain Mama”, my 17 year old likes to have her way and space. She loves to roll in the pasture and she’s considered the “boss lady”. I also have “Pilgrim”, who is a 2 yr. old male and he’s very cool and fun…loves to just “watch you”. I also lost a very special llama, “Pinker” a couple of years ago. He was the most photographed Llama in the Houston area. Pinker’s photo was on Houston Live Stock Show & Rodeo web-site for years.
2. Are llamas noisy? Llamas are the most remarkable, intelligent animals. They are elegant and bring one a sense of serenity. They make a soothing “hummm ” sound when they are content, and often hum to humans, as well as the other llamas.
3. Can llamas be trained? Llamas can be trained in many areas such as:
.. Follow you on a hiking trail carrying a pack.
.. Serve as a guard animal for goats, sheep, etc.
.. Compete in halter and performance at Llama Shows, – e.g., over obstacles, calmly
.. dressing up in a costume contest, etc. (Children and adults participate!)
The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo features a llama show each year.
One of the favorite events is “Loan a Llama”. A llama owner loans a trained llama
to a child who has applied to participate. Many times these are kids that have never seen a live llama, much less lead one. What an exciting and rewarding activity for all!
Llamas are easy keepers. The subsist on grazing, hay, llama food, plus require annual shots and periodic worming. Here in Texas they are normally partially shorn for the summer months. This is to keep them cool – plus one can sell the wool.
Once you have owned a llama – you ask yourself: “Why did I wait so long”?
They are unique and such a pleasure to be around.