flame (Lama glama) is a mammalian animal, a South American member of the camelid family, Camelidae (order Artiodactyla). It is used to obtain meat, wool, skin and to carry heavy loads (such as donkeys).

Sitting llama
Sitting llama

The flame is often confused with the alpaca (Vicugna pacos) due to their similar appearance but they are totally different species, although both belong to the lamoid group, along with the guanaco and the vicuña.


The llama is native to North America, in the central plains of North America about 40 million years ago. About 3 million years ago they migrated to South America and Asia during the Great American Exchange.

and that later migrated to South America and Asia about 3 million years ago. Before the American and Asian continents finally separate at Aslaka. This species is also thought to have become extinct from North America in the Ice Age.

It is believed to have evolved from the old world camel animals that lived in regions currently considered the Middle East. Although it has many similarities to the camel, the most notable difference is the hump on the back.


The llama is the largest animal among the lamoids. It can measure between 1,7 - 1,8 meters in height at the top of the head and about 120 cm to its shoulders. It can weigh between 130 - 200 kg. A baby llama, at birth weighs between 9 - 14 kg. A flame of about 114 kg can carry a load between 45 - 60 kg and can travel an average of 25 km per day.

They can live between 15 - 25 years, with the exception of some individuals who have lived to be 30 years or more.

The skull generally resembles that of the camel, but the brain cavity is larger and the orbits and cranial ridges are less developed due to their smaller size. The nasal bones are shorter and wider, and are joined by the premaxilla.

The ears are rather long and slightly curved inwards. There is no dorsal hump. The feet are narrow, the toes are further apart than in camels, each with a different foot pad. The tail is short, and the grain is long, woolly and smooth.

The llama's fur is usually white, but it can also be black or brown. Although it can also be white with black or brown markings.

Even if they are farm animals they are not ruminants, pseudo-ruminants, or modified ruminants. They have a complex stomach with several compartments that allows them to consume lower quality food and high cellulose. The stomach compartments allow the fermentation of hard foods, followed by regurgitation and chewing. Ruminants have four compartments (cows, sheep and goats), while llamas only have three stomach compartments: the rumen, the omasum, and the abomasum.

In addition, they have an extremely long and complex large intestine (colon). The role of the large intestine in digestion is to reabsorb water, vitamins, and electrolytes from the food waste that passes through it. The length of the colon allows it to survive on much less water than other animals. This is a great advantage in arid climates where they live.

It is a very important animal as a transport in desolate plateaus and mountains of the Andes, due to its tolerance of thirst, resistance and the ability to subsist with a great variety of forage.

Is a domestic animal that are not known in the wild. Apparently they were domesticated from the guanacos, during or before the Inca civilization to be used as pack animals.


The llama is a very social animal that enjoys being in a herd. They are considered very intelligent animals, as they can learn a task with only a few repetitions.

Although it is a very gentle animal, when it is threatened, overwhelmed, overloaded or mistreated, it lies down, hisses, spits and kicks and even refuses to move.

Flock of llamas
Flock of llamas


The llama lives in the Andean mountains of South America at 4.000 meters above sea level. They prefer dry, arid and temperate climates.

Llama at 4.000 meters high on Mount Machupichu
Llama at 4.000 meters high on Mount Machupichu

They can survive to these heights because they have a large amount of hemoglobin and their red blood cells are oval, which allows them to extract a greater amount of oxygen and make better use of it.


The llama is found in the Andes of South America, where it was kept as a pack animal by the ancient Incas.


The llama is a herbivorous animal that gets most of its food from grass, leaves, and young shoots. Although they are related to the camel, they must drink continuously, so they prefer to be near water.


The llama has as predators animals such as coyotes, Cougars y ocelots. Humans are predators too.


The llama has an unusual reproductive cycle. Females are induced ovulators, that is, the egg is released and fertilized on the first attempt. They lack zeal.

In the same way as humans, they mature sexually at different ages. Females do so at 12 months of age and males must wait until 3 years of age.

They mate between late summer and early fall, and between November and May. It is done with the female lying down and lasts for 20 - 45 minutes, which is quite unusual in large animals.

The gestation period is between 11 - 12 months and the birth of the young usually lasts half an hour. The young are born together with other young, as all the females gather in a large herd in order to protect the young from other males or predators.

Labor usually lasts 30 minutes and is done completely standing up, with only a single calf born per birth. Most births usually coincide during the morning, between 8 a.m. and noon, which are the warmest hours of the day. This can increase calf survival by reducing fatalities due to hypothermia during cold Andean nights.

Young try to stand up, walk, and attempt to breastfeed within the first hour after birth. The young are partially nourished by llama milk, lower in fat and salt and higher in phosphorus and calcium than cow's or goat's milk. A female can only produce about 60 ml of milk, so the calf must nurse frequently to receive the nutrients it needs.

They do not lick their young, because they have an attached tongue that only protrudes out of the mouth about 1,3 cm. Instead, they will pet and hum their newborns.

State of conservation

The llama being a domestic animal is not in danger. Although it will do it when humans do not need it, as it happens to donkeys.

The wild ancestor of the llama, the guanaco (Lama guanicoe), is classified as "least concern" by the IUCN.

Relationship with humans

The llama is currently maintained by the Indians of Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Chile and Argentina. It is especially useful as a pack animal, food, wool, hides, tallow for candles and dry manure for fuel.

It is shorn, like the sheep, every two years. Each llama contributes around 3 kg of fiber. In this process the flame loses between 66 - 84% of its total weight.

Llama wool is composed of coarse hairs in the outer protective layer (about 20 percent) and short, wavy fiber in the inner insulating layer. The individual strands of hair appear wavy; fairly soft fibers have two to four ripples per centimeter, but coarse hairs are fairly smooth.

The length of the hair varies between 8 - 25 cm, with thick hair being the longest. The difference in diameter between the guard hairs and the downy fiber is not as great as cashmere. The diameter ranges from about 10 - 150 microns (one micron is about 0,00004 inches) and the undercoat fiber typically ranges from 10 to 20 microns.

The scales of the outer layer of the fiber are indistinct, and the cortical layer has pigment, with differences in quantity and distribution, which gives rise to different colors and tones. All but the finest fibers are likely to have a hollow central core, or pith, resulting in low density, making the fiber very light in weight.

Flame fiber is used, alone or in mixtures, for knitted fabrics and for woven fabrics for the manufacture of outerwear. It is used locally for carpets, ropes and fabrics.

Popular culture

Researcher Alex Chepstow-Lusty argued that the switch from hunter-gatherer to agriculture was only possible to flame manure as fertilizer.

The Moche people placed llamas and their parts at the burials of important people, as offerings or provisions for the afterlife. Currently the tradition is maintained but the flames are not killed, but if dead or diseased flames are used.

In the Inca empire, they were used as pack animals, and many peoples had a great tradition of herding llamas. They were also buried with the dead. It is believed that the flames were an important factor in the growth of the empire, since the extension of the territory coincides with the distribution of the flames.

In South America, they continue to be used as pack animals, as well as for fiber and meat production.

The Inca deity Urcuchillay was represented in the form of a multi-colored flame.

In the Spanish empire, they were used to extract mineral from the mines productively, since before these 300.000 people were used in the transport of products.

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