7 Fast Facts About Llamas

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ABC15, via Twitter

This afternoon, two llamas escaped from a mobile petting zoo and led authorities on a sometimes high-speed, sometimes moseying chase through Sun City, Ariz., for nearly an hour. Here are a few fun facts about the camelids.

1. According to legend, the Spaniards, who had never seen llamas before, kept asking what they were called (“¿Cómo se llama?”)—and so the Incans thought “llama” was the Spanish name for the animals. But according to the BBC, this story is “not quite accurate. In fact the expression llama was there before the Spanish arrived. It's of Quechuan origin and was borrowed by many languages, together with other Quechuan words such as condor or puma.”

2. Llamas are native to the South American Andes. They were first imported into the United States in the late 1800s for display in zoos. In the early 1900s, newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst brought 12 of the animals to his private zoo at the Hearst Castle in San Simeon, Calif.

3. Llamas are pack animals, and can carry 50 to 75 pounds up to 20 miles. If you overload the animals, though, they’ll refuse to move. According to National Geographic, an overloaded llama will “often lie down on the ground and ... may spit, hiss, or even kick at their owners until their burden is lessened.”

4. According to the Pittsburgh Zoo, when one llama has an issue with another llama, it will stick its tongue out to express its displeasure. They’ll also spit on other llamas.

5. The llama gestation period is around 350 days. Baby llamas are called crias, and mothers usually have just one; twin births are rare.

6. Llama dung makes great fuel—and fertilizer. In fact, it may have helped the Incans grow corn and survive in the Andes. 

7. Llamas can reach speeds up to 35mph. So let’s hope no more get loose!