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The ancient Incas first domesticated llamas six thousand years ago, using them for packing and transportation. Their applications quickly evolved to include meat, clothing, shelter, fertilizer, fuel and sacrificial victims for the gods. While no longer functioning as offerings to any divinities, llamas are still an important part of South American culture. A llama can carry 30% of their body weight for up to twelve hours at a time! Over 7 million llamas can be found in South America today.
In the United States, llamas are used for light draft, as show animals and companions, as guards over other livestock, and for their fiber. Llama fiber has many applications, including in fine clothing when mixed with 30% wool, in felted products such as cowboy hats, as dry-fly tying material, and for making rugs, ropes, and other similar forms of tack.
Llamas themselves are 3-4.3 feet high, 6.5 feet long, and weigh as much as 300 pounds. They are usually white with black or brown blotches, although all white or all black llamas also exist. Llamas are not classified into specific breeds, but rather are determined by their various uses. While known for their spitting, they actually only spit when establishing dominance or when provoked. They are a part of the camelid family, which includes alpacas, and like their alpaca cousins, they are an environmentally friendly, healthy, and useful form of livestock.