The Story Of Wild Animals:
Story Of The Llama
Story Of The Carpincho
Story Of The Ant-eater
Story Of The Ostrich
Story Of The Lizard
Story Of The Kangaroo
Story Of The Hedgehog.
Story Of The Wild Goat
Story Of The Musquash
Story Of The Wart-hog
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Story Of The Llama
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
When Pizarro and his Spaniards conquered Peru they found a beast of burden in use by the Peruvians, and along with the other booty gained they acquired this animal; which is called the llama. The tons of gold and silver sent to Spain were all transported from the mountain recesses to the coast on the backs of the llama.
Only the males were used as beasts of burden, while the smaller females were kept for their milk and flesh. In traveling along the roads the droves marched in single file, under the guidance of a leader; and such a line would traverse the highest passes of the Cordillera, and skirt the most stupendous precipices with perfect safety. When not in active use, the herds of llamas were kept on the higher mountain pastures, where they would often temporarily associate with wild guanacos. The Spanish conquerors of Peru spoke of llama flesh as being fully equal to the best mutton, and they established in the towns shops for its regular sale. At the period of the conquest it is estimated that upwards of three hundred thousand llamas were employed in the transport of the product of the mines of Potosi alone.
The llama can conveniently carry from Too to 125 pounds, but should the load put upon it exceed its strength, it lies down, and shows itself inflexible to force or persuasion until it is removed or lightened. Its usefulness in the silver mining districts cannot be overestimated, for it can carry the metal from the mines in places of such abrupt descent that neither mules nor asses can keep their footing.
These animals are comparatively small and possess no hump, so that they may easily be distinguished from the camels. Their hair is very woolly, and their countenance has a very sheep-like expression. A full-haired llama instantly reminds the spectator of a long-legged, long-necked sheep. The feet of the llamas are very different from those of the camels, as their haunts are always found to be upon rocky ground, and must of necessity be accommodated to the ground on which they are accustomed to tread. The toes of the llama are completely divided, and are each furnished with a rough cushion beneath, and a strong claw-like hoof above, so that the member may take a firm hold of rocky or uneven ground.
A flock of llamas journeying across the table lands is a beautiful sight. They proceed at a slow and measured pace, gazing eagerly in every direction. When scared by any unusual object, the flock separates and scatters all round about, so that the arrieros, as the caretakers are called, have no little difficulty in reassembling it. The Indians are very fond of these animals. They adorn them by tying bows of ribbon to their ears, and hanging bells around their necks; and before loading they always fondle and caress them affectionately. If, in the course of the journey, a llama grows fatigued and lies down, the arriero kneels beside it and addresses it with the most coaxing and endearing expressions. But, in spite of all the care and attention bestowed upon them, many llamas perish on every journey to the coast, king unable to endure a warm climate.
When resting they give utterance to a curious humming sound, which, when heard at a distance, and proceeding from a numerous flock, resembles a concert of Aeo'ian harps.
When wild they are very timid, and fly from a pursuer the moment that they see him, but their curiosity is so great that the hunter often secures them by lying on the ground and throwing his legs and arms about. The llamas come to see what the extraordinary animal can be, and give the hunter an opportunity of firing several shots, which the astonished animals consider as part of the performance.
The llamas, like the camels, have a series of cells in the stomach for containing water, and can go for several days without requiring to drink.
Llamas produce only one offspring at a time, so that their rate of increase is not very rapid.
It is from the wild animals known as guanacos and vicunias that the llama and white alpaca are descended.
The range of the guanaco is very wide, extending from the lofty mountains of Ecuador and Peru, where it is found in company with the vicunia, to the plains of Patagonia and the islands of Tierra-del-Fuego.
In the mountains the habits of the guanacos appear to be very similar to those of the vicunia, but it is not unfrequently seen in larger flocks, which may occasionally reach as many as one hundred or even five hundred head. These animals are very wild and wary, and frequently the first evidence of their presence in the neighborhood of the hunter is their loud, neighing alarm-cry, which makes itself heard at a great distance. If the hunter looks attentively he will then probably see the herd standing in a line on the side of some distant hill. On approaching nearer, a few more squeals are given, and off they set at an apparently slow but really quick canter, along some narrow beaten track to a neighboring hill. If, however, by chance he abruptly meets a single animal, or several together, they will generally stand motionless and intently gaze at him, then perhaps move on a few yards, turn round, and look again. They are easily domesticated, and in the wild state have no notion of defending themselves. Guanacos take readily to the water; several times at Port Valdes they were seen swimming from island to island. Byron, in his voyage, says he saw them drinking salt-water. Some of our men likewise saw a herd apparently drinking the briny fluid from a salina near Cape Blanco.
The white alpaca has for ages furnished the aborigines of Peru with the material for their blankets and ponchos. The wool of the alpaca is to-day the only thoroughly satisfactory material for producing the fine luster in ex-pensive fancy fabrics. On this account the alpaca has retained its place as a useful domestic animal, in spite of having lost its prestige in some degree by the importation of European species into Peru.