Llama Question and Answer Page heading Ambassador drawing

This page discusses llamas versus pronunciation, anatomy,
weaning age, heavy loads, halters, poultry, and more.
(Updated December 15, 2002)

List of questions:

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Q. How do you pronounce the word llama?

A. Here in Canada it is usually pronounced with the first “a” sounding like the “a” in “lap” which would be “laam - uh”.

Our friends across the border in Washington always laugh at us when the hear the Canadian pronunciation as their version has the “a” sounding like the “a” in “law”. Consequently they pronounce it like “law - muh”.

In Spanish, the “ll” has a “y” sound so the word is pronounced “ya - ma”. Sometimes the Chilean pronunciation is “jaw - ma”.

Weaning age

Q. I have a four-month-old llama and her mom. The baby was unexpected as I and the previous owner though mom was open. My question is at what age do you wean the babies? Some people say four months, some six or eight months. Basically I would just like to know the best way to wean without stressing them out too much.

A. If mom is not bred back, there should be no hurry to wean the baby. If mom is pregnant you would want the baby weaned at about six months so mom can put her energy into the new cria and not into producing milk.

Four months is pretty early to wean them unless it is a really big cria and demanding too much milk.

Most often the mothers will decide when the weaning time is right and that makes it easier all around. If you separate them, it is pretty pathetic to hear them humming.

What we usually do is separate them for a few hours in the day, gradually lengthening the time until they are apart all day. We let them back together at night and eventually after a week or so just let them together to nurse at the end of the day and then separate them overnight. The moms usually dry up fairly quickly this way.

Sometimes though, mom is not ready and will let the baby nurse through a fence weeks after they have been separated. A more experienced mom usually takes care of the weaning by herself, simply by moving her back leg forward when the baby tries to put its head under.

We used to try to wean the babies at about six months, but often we let them go seven or eight months and then usually mom does it by herself.

Some moms though, will let the baby nurse for a year or more so then you have to physically separate them. It seems to be a habit with the youngster by then and they will often try to nurse at a year and a half or more. We had a female abort at about nine or ten months as she let the weanling (weaned at six months) nurse and we suspect that may have caused it.

The best advice is not to try to force the weaning too early.

Llama heights

Q. How tall do llamas and alpacas get?

A. The silhouettes shown on right the will give you the approximate heights of all four of the lama species.

Clucking sound

Q. We just got a llama this past weekend. It makes a clucking sound whenever I start to walk close. Does that mean back off?

A. The clucking is a mild form of aggression. He is warning you to keep out of his space most likely because he does not know you yet. Once he learns that you provide feed and treats, he will soon trust you and stop the clucking (Sound link). It is certainly preferable to having him spit at you.

It takes a lot of time and patience to get them to trust you completely and a lot depends on how they were treated previously.

Heavy loads

Q. Do llamas really lie down and refuse to move if you overload them?

A. Yes. In the photo on the left, we had just come down a long steep climb and had been going for about seven hours. Pizarro, the llama lying down in the photo had been shorn earlier so his pack tended to slip forward on the steep slopes. We had tightened it up as much as we could, but it still needed adjusting quite often. His packs were not especially heavy, in fact they were lighter than they were on the trip up, but I guess he had just had enough and wanted to let us know. He would lie down for a couple of minutes and then he would get up and go for another while before taking another short rest.

Even Sebastian, our dog, was sitting down at this point which was unusual for him as he usually wanted to be chasing sticks the whole time. His current stick is there beside him though.

For more information see:

Halter fitting

Q. How important is it that a halter fits correctly?

A. Look at the front part of the llama skull shown on the right. Notice that the long nasal passage at the front is completely open. There is no protection over this area like there is with a horse.

The picture on the left shows where the nose band should sit. It has to be over the bone, half way beween the top of the nasal cavity and the eye. If the halter slips down on the nose, the llama’s air will be cut off and it will panic. Llamas are nose breathers and cannot breathe through their mouths. This is one of the main reasons why it is dangerous to leave halters on llamas when they are free in their fields.

For more information see:

Do llamas guard poultry?

Q. Have you applied llamas to guarding poultry flocks against predators (as well as art galleries)?

A. We haven’t ourselves, but I have heard of people using them successfully to guard ducks and geese. We did have a lone muscovy duck that made a nest in Lazo’s shelter and lived there quite happily and safely for a couple of years.

No one has ever stolen any of our paintings from our barns/galleries. I don’t know whether that is due to the presence of the guard llamas but I suspect it may be the quality of the paintings though.

Collective name

Q. Is there a name to describe a group of llamas?

A. We have always referred to them as a herd, but it would be interesting to know if there actually is a proper collective name, such as there is for a “pride of lions” or a “murder of crows”. I have tried to find one but have not had any success.

Another alternative would be to adopt a Spanish name, so with this in mind, I contacted a friend in Chile. Kati sent back the following three Spanish words: rebaño(a small herd),  piño(more animals), and manada. She says that manadais actually what she has heard most so far in the Chilean campos, as that’s how they refer to a herd with horses (manada de caballos).

She also wrote to a friend in Bolivia who says that the name in Quechua could be: tama(herd) or aima(a herd of about ten animals). In Spanish he suggested tropa(many animals together), hato(a bit smaller herd), or recua(which is mostly used for horses, but can be used for other animals also).

Kati suggests that the best word to use would be the original Quechua name tama or the original Spanish name rebaño.

Llama anatomy

To compare a llama with its skeleton,
move your cursor back and forth over the picture below:

Q. What are the names of the different parts of a llama?

A. You can put your cursor over the different parts in the diagram below and the part names will show up. Also, by clicking on the names on the menu, the different parts will be circled. If you simply leave your cursor over the picture for a short time, you will automatically get a tour of the names, starting with the areas nearest the cursor.

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Index to the Question and Answer Pages

Page One Page Two Page Three
Are there different kinds of llamas? What are their feet like? Can you eat them?
Where do llamas come from? Do they spit? What is their temperament?
Are they expensive? Could I have one as a pet? Are they good with children?
What do llamas eat? What can you do with them? What kind of fencing do they need?
What kind of shelter do they need? Can you ride them? How do you transport them?
What kind of sounds do they make? Are they hard to train? When do they have their babies?
How big do they get? Are there any unpleasant odors? Do llamas need help when birthing?
Do they bite? What are their natural enemies? What do llama crias look like?
Do llamas lose their baby teeth? What do you call a baby llama? How much should my cria weigh?

Page Four Page Five Page Six
Cria questions, nursing, cria coats How do you shear llamas? Breeding questions
Is baby “poop”yellow? How long do llamas live? Eating bark
Llama feeding and treats Can llamas be used for therapy? Scientific classification
Behaviour questions How do I earn my llama’s trust? Birthing and dog questions
Llama gaits Handling young llamas Training commands
Llamas with horses, halters, gelding Will they eat out of my hand? How much space do they need?
How do I trim toenails? Why is my llama standoffish? Barbed wire and electric fences
Black colour Should we groom our youngsters? What is their spit like?
Can I have intact males together? What about leading youngsters around? Llama “poop”
Deadly nightshade Problem with choking Llamas and deep snow

Page Seven Page Eight Page Nine
Shedding wool Children’s llama books Llamas as sheep guards
Can llamas eat apples? Where can I find llama songs for children? Grooming brushes
Fighting with other animals Can llamas be fed alfalfa? How much can they carry?
Protecting other llamas Llamas and goats Do llamas swim?
Skittish llama and haltering Llama and new horse What colour are llamas?
Mouth abscess Llamas and coyotes What colour is llama milk?
Why is my llama afraid of me? Do llamas get ticks? Are there shows about llamas?
Intact males with other llamas Do llamas get fleas? Do they tolerate new dogs?
Can I have a cria with an intact male? Getting a llama to kush What is the best age to buy a llama?

Page Ten Page Eleven Page Twelve (Present Page)
Can they eat corn? Llamas vs alpacas How is “llama” pronounced?
Pooping in the barn Blue-eyed llamas When do you wean babies?
Llamas and cats How fast can a llama run? How tall do they get?
Llamas and freezing weather How do you estimate their age? What does clucking mean?
How far can they go? Llamas crossed with emus??? Llamas and heavy loads
Spitting llama Llamas eating pine trees Halter fitting
Touching young llamas Males and females together? Do llamas guard poultry?
Llama kisses How do you clean llama wool? What do you call a group of llamas?
What do you call a female llama? Will llamas eat blackberries? Llama anatomy

Page Thirteen Page Fourteen Page Fifteen
How are llamas identified? Cooling off llamas Breeding related llamas
Picketing llamas at night while hiking Breeding for spring or fall birthing Attacking a haltered llama
Will llamas avoid poisonous plants? Female won’t spit at the male Llamas eating fences
Moving a pregnant llama Stopping spitting behaviour Spotting a sick llama
I can’t get near my new cria How did the llama get its name? Feeding a greedy llama
My baby llama cries Telling genders apart My llama attacked me
Can I put the male with new baby? Washing a llama
Can males share a pasture with females? Poisoning treatment
Are people allergic to llamas? Fun questions we have received

Who made these pages?

Mount Lehman Llamas Farm Page