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Saturday, April 30, 2016

Llama Math

Feeding llamas requires the use of addition, division, percentages and decimals. Go figure! These math skills are critical to the health of the hungry, hungry llamaa critter that prefers to overeat! See if you can answer the following questions to keep five llamas perfectly fed.

First, here are the weights of each animal:

Barack O'Llama weighs the most at 329 pounds!

In second place is Como T. Llama at 314 pounds.

Third place is Dalai Llama, our pack leader, 
weighing 301 pounds.
Bahama Llama,
who would like to be pack leader,
weighs 297 pounds.

And Drama Llama, who is 1/2 alpaca,
weighs just 232 pounds.

Question 1: To maintain weight, each llama needs to eat 1% of his total body weight in hay each day. So how many pounds of hay should you feed EACH llama each day? Hint: Add a decimal between the first and second numbers in each animal’s weight. For example, a 329-pound llama needs 3.29 pounds of hay. See how easy decimals are?

Question 2: How many total pounds of hay do you need each day to feed ALL the llamas? Hint: Using your answers to Question 1, list the numbers so that the decimal points are lined up. Perform standard addition, remembering to put the decimal point in your answer. Are you surprised by the total? 

Question 3: How many days will your supply of hay last when you started with 1,800 pounds? Hint: Divide 1,800 by your answer to Question 2 to determine when you need to reorder two more bales of 3'x3'x8' hay! 

This is a llama grocery store.

When Mama Llama shops for hay, she buys 
two of these 900-pound, 3'x3'x8' bales.
Three of our llamas
steal hay from the truck!

Mama Llama purchases hay from a feed store in Texas, located one hour from her ranch. Of course there are closer feed stores, but only one in her region carries the variety of hay that her spoiled llamas like: orchardgrass/alfalfa. Most llamas—and horses, cows, sheep, goats, alpacas, etc.—eat local hay called "coastal," also known as bermudagrass. Mama Llama’s pack considers coastal hay only good for bedding or as a place to deposit their llama beans! Actually, the difference in taste between coastal hay and orchardgrass/alfalfa and is like the difference between hamburger and steak. It seems that the llamas of ShangriLlama have refined taste buds!

But it’s not just the taste that makes orchardgrass/alfalfa more satisfying; it’s also richer in nutrients. Take a look at this comparison photo:

Coastal Hay vs. Orchardgrass/Alfalfa

If you were a llama, which hay would you rather eat: the pale hay or the dark green, rich leaves and stems? That’s why Mama and Papa Llama drive so far for “the good stuff.”

This nutritious hay is loaded on very large trucks and driven to Texas from Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona. Right now, you might be wondering whether llama hay is costly. It’s not, at least not when it’s purchased in bulk. Two premium 3’x3’x8’ bales of orchardgrass/alfalfa cost a total of $308.00, which is just $154.00 per bale. (You’ve done enough math today!) 

To ensure that each llama receives the correct amount of hay to maintain his body weight, Mama Llama uses a very large scale to measure portion size and to periodically weigh each llama. Here are pictures of this essential llama tool:

Llama scale readout with decimal.

Top side of scale,
where the animal stands to be weighed
and where the hay is placed.
Underside of feed scale.

Using this scale, each llama receives a bucket full of just the right amount of hay to keep his figure perfect. Como T. Llama, however, prefers his hay served on the floor, as shown in this quick video:

Como T. Llama Flips the Bucket

Happy Trails from Mama Llama!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Como T. Llama Goes to Hollywood

(originally published April 7, 2014; updated June 8, 2020)

Our funniest llama has been cast in an Internet series called “Llama Cop.” This original, live-action show was produced by Starz Digital and Ambitious Media for Starz’ comedy YouTube channel called Union Pool. In the six webisodes, Como T. Llama plays a renegade cop paired with a straight-laced detective trying to solve a crime. 

Series Poster for "Llama Cop"
 For each day of filming, Como was eager to jump into his "Llama Mobile" to travel to various set locations, including the front yard of a house off Melrose Avenue in Hollywood, inside a Los Angeles church (!), inside a police van, and inside an LA and Orange County sound stage. 

 In the back of Mama Llama’s mind, she has worried that someone somewhere will claim that llamas should not be in show biz. But if Como could speak, he would say he had the time of his life on the set of “Llama Cop!” Llamas are highly intelligent and insatiably curious. They need mental stimulation. At home, Como has acres of land to freely roam and to play with his pack mates. But when the weekend rolls around and it is time to take a three-hour walk, Como and his friends dash to the exit gate and hum impatiently to go on the trail. They love to mingle with people as much as people love to see the llamas.

Llamas not only like to socialize, but they also enjoy playing dress-up! At Christmas, Como and his pals wear reindeer antlers, and on Cinco de Mayo, the pack dons mini sombreros and serapes. Llamas can easily shake off costumes, but they are usually happy to dress up. That is why most annual llama gatherings include a llama costume contest! In "Llama Cop," Como plays a detective and wears a badge and gun holster. As an undercover officer, he is disguised in a hat and beard.

Llamas like to dress up.
So you can imagine how much fun Como had when he became the first llama to wear a tuxedo and attend a Hollywood premiere. Initially, he hesitated about going inside the nightclub, because it was dark and the doorway was narrow. He thought it over, and when he was ready, he entered. Later on, he did not want to leave the party! (Mama Llama is like that, too.)
The co-stars of "Llama Cop" are
Walter Masterson and Como T. Llama.
Do you know how to tell if a llama is having a great time? Take a look at his ears! Are they shaped like bananas? Or are they pointed outward? Tipped forward? Those are happy positions. But if the ears are flat back, then you are looking at an annoyed llama. (Have fun googling llama images and discovering the many photos of annoyed llamas.)  Llamas can be temperamental, so their ears may flick from happy to annoyed in seconds. But the nightclub photos of Como and the footage of “Llama Cop” show a happy-eared Como. See! Llamas like being in show biz, but no one had ever invited a llama to participate before. Como is proud to be the first llama in the history of the Internet to star in a network-sponsored show. He is also the second animal to attract paparazzi attention at a nightclub. (The first was Bianca Jagger, who rode a white horse into Studio 54.)
Como T. Llama is a party animal!
You may be wondering why Como was chosen for the role of Buddy Callahan in “Llama Cop.” Other llamas were interviewed, but only Como passed the screen test—and yes, there was a screen test! Como received the benefit of training from the most decorated llama trainer in North America. When he was one year old, Como was adopted by ShangriLlama, an animal education company that offers three-hour trail walks with llamas on weekends. Como has proven to be quite the entertainer on the trail and is usually dubbed the favorite during Llama Walks. This may be because Como comes from a specialty ranch in Nebraska, which breeds sweet, attractive, large llamas. Como is an Argentine llama. His light-colored, spotted curly coat (Appaloosa suri) is beautiful, and his face is shaped in a permanent, goofy smile. He is irresistibly charming, gentle and funny. You can learn more about Como T. Llama plus 30 little-known facts about llamas from the quirky book, The Llamas of ShangriLlama (available from 

The cast and crew of "Llama Cop" applaud their woolly star.

Here is the link to “Llama Cop" 

Happy Trails from Mama Llama
and Como T. Llama!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Long-necked Llamas


One distinguishing feature of the llama is
its long, woolly neck, which measures nearly the length of its back.
When standing erect, the llama’s neck and mane
make the animal look athletic and regal.

Dalai Llama
But when the neck is sheared,
the llama looks, well, rather amusing.
Under its gorgeous mane is a shockingly thin neck.

Dalai Llama's Long, Skinny Neck is Revealed!
Such long, skinny necks are very useful.
Llamas use it as a tool to steal leaves, to swing threateningly at predators,
to wrestle with other llamas, and to provide a counterbalance when rising
from a seated or lying position.
Even so, rising is an awkward movement for the llama,
which has four knees, but the front ones won't bend till the llama stretches out. 
Llamas move into the seated position the way a camel does.

The llama's front legs bend at the knee, but the back legs bend at the hip.
So to rise from a seated position, llamas have to lean forward on their front legs
and push off on their back legs.
Try standing on all fours and rising with your back legs straight. It's not easy!

Can’t do it? Try swinging your neck to provide some momentum.
That works out beautifully for the llama.

The most remarkable fact about the llama’s neck is how enough blood can travel such a great distance from the heart all the way to the head. Llamas accomplish this with ease through specially designed elliptical (oval) blood cells. Most other mammals, including humans, have round blood cells, which are smaller than the llama's. Elliptical cells carry extra blood--and just the right amount to compensate for the length that blood must travel in the amazing llama. These oval shaped cells are also very stable.

In comparison, the world’s longest-necked animal—the giraffe—has a completely different system for blood circulation from its heart to its head. With a neck length of six feet, the giraffe is designed with an unusually large heart, weighing 25 pounds and measuring nearly two-feet long. This large heart generates almost double the blood pressure of a human heart at 150-beats per minute. Additionally, seven one-way valves in the jugular veins prevent back flow when the giraffe lowers its head, while blood vessels in the animal’s lower legs maintain a balancing pressure.

So giraffes and llamas both have long necks and compensating blood-pressure systems. But are they related? After all, they both chew their cud, and they are both classified in the Order Artiodactlya.

However, the llama’s taxonomy Family is called Camelidae—with the alpaca, guanaco, vicuna, and camel (a distant relative) in their Family. The giraffe’s Family is called Giraffidae, and its relatives are extinct, except for the okapi, which looks more like a zebra than a giraffe.

The okapi is the giraffe's only relative.
More importantly, the llama is fully domesticated,
while the giraffe is a wild animal. 
They are NOT relatives, but it is understandable that many people think they are.

Happy Trails from Mama Llama!

Monday, September 9, 2013


Well, aside from eating and cat-napping, 
llamas play all sorts of games with their pack members. 

These games include:

 “Your Food is My Food” 
“Get Out of My Way”
“Can’t Touch Me!”
“I Can Spit Farther Than You Can” 

Essentially, llamas spend their day stealing food, pushing other llamas
away from “their” food, 
chasing and spitting at each other, plus wrestling and bucking
to assert their ranking in the pack.

Blessedly, a much more magical activity takes place just before the sun goes down. 
That’s the time of day when llamas spend their excess energy
before staying fairly still from sundown to sunup. 
This particular activity is called pronking. 

Think of a rabbit or a deer hopping through a meadow:
all four feet leave the ground at once.

That’s what llamas actually do, and it’s an odd sight to behold. 
Even stoic, ultra-serious llamas will join in an occasional pronking session. 
With every member of the pack hopping like bunnies for five to 10 minutes, 
pronking looks like an ancient, ritualistic dance.
But it’s just the llamas joining in some last-minute fun.

Llamas don’t pronk everyday. 
In fact, it’s an occasional activity, and because it happens at dusk, 
lighting is very poor for videotaping.
Mama Llama has tried unsuccessfully for 11 years to videotape
her llamas pronking. They're sneaky about it!
Fortunately, contains some videos
of other llamas pronking for joy. You won't believe your eyes!

Happy Trails from Mama Llama!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

How Long Do Llamas Live?

After all, they are large animals, 
weighing from 275 to 400 pounds when fully grown, 
and they often measure six-feet tall. 
But large animals can live a long time. 
Take a look:

9 years
10 years
20 years
22 years
40 years
40 years
40 years
45 years
68 years
70 years

So how long do llamas live? Well, from the mid-1980s--when llamas first entered the U.S.--until about 2015, most llama breeders reported an age range of 15 to 18 years. Since then, age expectancy has increased in line with better nutrition and overall knowledge about the needs of llamas. Now it is not unusual for llamas to live to be 20 to 23 years old! That number truly is remarkable, because there is very little medicine specifically formulated for llamas. In fact, most of their medicine was developed for other livestock or equine. Fortunately, llamas are hardy animals that require little maintenance beyond good nutrition, low stress, and a watchful eye against predators and plant poisonings.

Recent grants at veterinary teaching hospitals have resulted in landmark studies about llamas and their camelid cousins. Quite notably, llama DNA has been completely mapped, revealing that these animals have 74 chromosomes. That’s comparable to a horse (64) and a cow (60), and this number well exceeds that of humans (46).

Great news! Llama DNA studies will also increase the human life span! Take a look at these recent discoveries:

2009 – Scientists have determined that certain antibodies in llama blood can be used to quickly and accurately detect biological weapons—such as cholera and smallpox—then quickly develop antibodies that bind to new threats as they are revealed. 

2010 - Therapies have been developed for both H.I.V and influenza using llama antibodies.

2011 – A practical treatment was developed for human botulism poisoning based on antibodies from llamas and their cousins the alpaca and camel.


2016 - Two potent llama, alpaca and camel antibodies were found to fight separately against MERS and SARS.

2019 - A rare blood-clotting disorder known as TTP can now be treated with FDA-approved medicine based on llama, alpaca and camel antibodies.

May 2020 – Scientists believe that the llama, alpaca and camel antibodies that can neutralize MERS and SARS are a likely defense against the Covid-19 virus.

Research continues at a rapid pace toward treating human illnesses with antibodies from llamas and their cousins. Such research will benefits llamas and alpacas, also, because until recently, these animals have not been studied intensely as compared to other domesticated animals. Surely every llama llover looks forward to the day that llamas live as long as a horse! 

Happy Trails from Mama Llama!

Friday, September 6, 2013

How to Greet a Llama

how would you say hello to him? 

If you wave your hand, he’s likely to think you have a treat. 
If there’s no treat, the llama will walk away. 
So how can you engage a llama and make friends with him? Breathe into his mouth!

How to greet a llama from The Llamas of ShangriLlama. 
Copyright All rights reserved.

That was not a misprint. The official llama greeting is mouth-blowing. Mama Llama is not suggesting that you pretend to blow out a candle in the direction of the llama. No, it’s more dramatic than that! Inhale, and then share your worst morning breath with the llama. That’s right: blow from the gut toward the llama’s mouth.

Guess what will happen? It won’t spit on you; no worries! A friendly llama that is interested in you will come right up to your mouth to smell your breath. That’s how he can learn more about you and remember who you are next time. Dogs share information with body smells, too. But they do so by sniffing the rear end of other animals. Isn’t it more polite to share scents from the mouth?

If you are brave enough to stand still while the llama is enjoying your morning breath, then you just might be brave enough for the second half of the llama greeting. To prepare for the exchange, you will see the llama’s nostrils flare. That’s because llamas breathe through their nose, rather than from their mouth. Following inhalation, the llama will blow air into your mouth! Admittedly, this experience is daunting the first time. But it makes for a memorable moment.

So go ahead: breathe into the mouth of the next friendly llama you meet. If the llama finds you intriguing, he’ll reciprocate. And he'll remember who you are--forever!

Happy Trails from Mama Llama!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Banana Ears

 That’s easy. Just look at their ears!

While alpacas have cat-like ears...

Alpaca ears

...llamas have curved ears.

Llama ears

Some say that llama ears remind them of Viking horns...

Viking (Nordic) horns

...while others liken llama ears to the Hawaiian "Mahalo" sign:


But the easiest way to discern whether you’re looking at 
a llama or an alpaca
is to find the banana-shaped ears:

Llamas have "banana ears."

And those bananas are constantly in motion. That’s because llamas “talk” with their ears. Animal behaviorists have yet to crack the code on exactly what llamas are saying to each other at all times, but a few ear positions are translatable. For example, perfectly formed banana ears reveal that the llama is content. Ears pointed forward mean that the llama is listening to what’s in front of him. Likewise, ears turned backward (yes, they can do that) mean that the llama is listening to sounds behind him. If the sound is particularly engaging, all the llamas in a pack will stand still and point their ears in the same direction. Llamas can also use their ears like individual radars, turning one ear forward and the other backward. Plus, they can turn their ears sideways, which looks hilarious.

Llamas can move their ears in many directions.

There is one llama ear position that you should pay special attention to: 

Take note of a llama with ears in this position!

When a llama flattens his ears against his neck, he’s about to spit! Please don’t take this personally, because spitting is meant for the nearest llama, who is likely encroaching on the first llama’s personal space or is attempting to take a treat away. (Llamas don’t like to share.) Spitting happens in a millisecond, with whatever bits of hay and saliva in the llama’s mouth or throat getting spewed forward like a shower. 

This llama from Canada is giving spitting lessons.

If you ever find yourself standing in front of a llama with
flat-back ears and head raised, 
your best defense to avoid the spit is to 

Aside from daunting “spitty ears,” llama ear movement is fascinating to watch. It looks like a dance, with the ears flexing like a ballerina stretching upward, forward, sideways and backward. Look at ShangriLlama's owners flexing their "banana ears" in their Llama Pajama costumes!

Mama & Papa Llama Wear Their Llama Pajamas.

Happy Trails from Mama Llama!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Llama Sunglasses

LLAMAS LOVE TO LIE IN THE SUN, yet they are highly sun-sensitive. So they wear sunglasses—but not Ray-Bans or Oakleys. Llama sunglasses are built into their eyes!

Bahama Llama and Pajama Llama Take a Sun Bath

Technically, llama sunglasses are called iridic granules, or corpora nigra. These look like black bubbles at the intersection of the pupil (the black part of the eye) and the iris (the colored part of the eye). When llamas need their sunglasses, the bubbles above the pupil interlock (interdigitate) vertically with the bubbles below the pupil—much like vertical blinds on a window. Llamas can then focus and accept light through two openings on either end of their pupils, while the center of their pupils is completely shaded to cut out glare and bright light.

Here’s what llama sunglasses look like magnified. Some liken the shape to a skeleton key, while others say they look like the edges of "Ruffles with Ridges” potato chips.

Just in case you’re planning on staring into the eyes of the next llama you meet, please know that you can’t see iridic granules in dark-eyed llamas—and most llamas have dark eyes. Actually, llama eye colors range from black to brown to amber to orange to gray, and finally to blue. It is the blue-eyed llama that offers the best viewing of iridic granules. Gaze into the gorgeous blue eyes of ShangriLlama’s own Dalai Llama, below:

Dalai Llama Shows Off His Iridic Granules
Dalai Llama’s two blue eyes are quite rare, because blue eyes are considered a flaw in llama shows. Think of dog shows, cat shows and horse shows, which require specific characteristics to determine grand champions. In the llama world, blue eyes automatically disqualify llamas from the show ring. That’s because blue eyes with white coats are markers of the deaf gene. Have you ever heard of blue-eyed, white-coated cats? They’re often deaf. And so it is with llamas, which is the reason blue eyes are discouraged. Dalai Llama is not deaf, however, so he serves as our “demo llama.” He's very good natured about our Llama Walk customers staring into his eyes to spy his iridic granules.

You may be wondering if llamas are the only ones in the animal kingdom with built-in sunglasses. Actually, they are not. Horses, cattle, sheep, goats and alpacas have these built-in sunglasses, too. But llamas and their cousin the alpaca have the darkest sunglasses, with six iridic granules above their iris and six below. Cattle, sheep and goats have fewer granules, while horses only have the granules above the pupil. This makes the gentle llama and his cousin the most sun-sensitive of the grazing animals. Maybe that’s why, when you look into a llama’s big eyes, you see a truly soft, friendly gaze! 

Happy Trails from Mama Llama!