Llamas are members of the South American camelid family and are mostly found in the high altiplana regions of the Andes in Peru, Bolivia and Chile. They are the domesticated cousin of wild guanacos and are extensively used by the Andean people and were used in the past by the Incas as beasts of burden, for food, for fibre and for leather (from their hides).
Llamas were brought to the UK in Victorian days and were a major attraction in zoos with their long necks, banana ears and beautiful fibre (ladies – llamas also have eyelashes to kill for!). Interest in private ownership grew in the 1970s and a number of people built up significant breeding herds to satisfy a growing demand for these graceful animals. Today there are between 2000 and 4000 llamas in the UK, mostly owned by private individuals and families. Llamas are predominantly kept for recreation rather than business. The exceptions are those owners who breed and sell llamas, and a thriving community of trekkers who offer members of the public the opportunity to spend a day trekking with a llama as a companion that carries the picnic or camping gear.
Llamas also make excellent companion animals for a lonely horse or donkey and can be used as livestock guardians, offering protection to flocks of sheep or even ducks and hens! Llamas are exhibited at many of the country’s agricultural shows, sometimes with official show classes and sometimes just as fascinating animals in their own right. While some owners are content for their llamas to grace and graze their fields, others take them on informal treks, train them to pull carts or to perform all manner of different tasks, again mainly for fun.
The British Llama Society has been set up to promote all aspects of llama and guanaco ownership: good husbandry, breeding, trekking, driving, showing and much more. It publishes a glossy quarterly magazine. It operates a registration system for llamas, guanacos, vicunas and camels, which is an important facility in these days of increasing regulation. The BLS is affiliated to British Camelids Ltd., a charity that promotes the responsible ownership of all camelids in the UK.
The society brings together a lively community of people who have been captivated by these fascinating animals.
If you are interested in llamas please explore this website. You can join the society by completing and sending in a simple application form to be found on the JOIN BLS page of the site, or contact the secretary directly. YOU DON'T HAVE TO BE A LLAMA OWNER!