Llamas, a South American member of Camelidae, the camel family, were domesticated for their wool and labor some 4,000 years ago in the Andes mountains of what is now modern Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia. It is the largest of the four cousin species including alpacas, guanacos and the smallest, vicunas.
Vicunas, particularly, have been hunted to near extinction for their fine wool and now survive under government protection. These animals have the peculiar distinction of being able to drink salt water in their sea level habitats near Tierra del Fuego at the southern tip of South America.
They are sure-footed in the mountainous, rough terrain and do well in the cold and in arid areas.
The Camelids at the Waystation are the species commonly known as "llamas," pronounced "lama" or "yama," depending on personal preference (or Spanish-speaking background). For some reason, llamas and alpacas have lately become very popular animals to raise in North America. From California to Michigan, there are established llama ranches advertising for sale, prize-winning animals with long, silky wool and longer bloodlines. There is a particular concentration of breeders in Colorado where there is much opportunity for back-packing and mountaineering with these woolly companions (nobody rides a llama but they can carry about 100 lbs. of stuff for you!).
Female llamas mature after one year of age; the males at approximately a year. Pregnancies last from eleven months to as long as a year. In the wild the males are left to their own when they mature (at about two years) and live similar to lions in bachelor bands. The unit of llamas which includes the dominant male, his several females and their offspring is called a … "family."