Conformation for the Working Llamas

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  1. Introduction
    • Any llama with reasonable conformation and some degree of conditioning will likely be suitable for light to moderate packing for the average person. However, as the demands increase, so does the necessity for choosing a llama that is up to the job. Many people have purchased llamas as being “suitable for packing”, only to find that the animal did not meet expectations.Read more...
  2. The overall look and balance
    • The Ccara llama is, above all, a working animal and an athlete. The overall look should be one of power and grace, with an energy-efficient way of going. There will be no obvious deformities and the llama should move smoothly with a relatively long free stride. There will be an infinite range of body types from the streamlined lean and lanky frame to the more solid look with heavier bone and more bulky muscling.

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  3. The feet and pasterns
    • The working llama needs a good base of support for continued soundness. Small dainty feet have no place in the world of the pack llama. It has been suggested a foot with a broad heel and short toes with a moderate ‘vee’ (not exaggerated as with a splayed foot) between the toes is desirable. It would seem likely that long toes would shift the animal’s weight towards the rear of the foot, putting additional stress on the structures of the pasternRead more...
  4. The leg bones
    • Leg bones are the levers that propel the animal forward. The length of the various bones and their angles of attachment are a major factor in determining the length and mechanical efficiency of the stride. Angulation also determines the degree of shock absorption in the various joints.

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  5. The front quarters
    • A long sloping shoulder provides for great range of motion, mechanical efficiency and excellent shock absorption when combined with a long upper arm (humerus). In a llama with these traits, a plumb line dropped to the ground from the base of the llama’s neck will sit well ahead of the front legs. Read more...

  6. The hindquarters
    • Power for locomotion – the thrust – is provided by the hindquarters. Long upper leg bones maximize the area for muscle attachment. Long, well anchored muscles are needed here for the powerful and rapid contractions that will propel the loaded llama with ease. A long thigh (hip to stifle) and/or gaskin (stifle to hock) with good angulation in the hip and stifle joints provide the necessary shock absorption and range of motion capabilities. As with the shoulder, a long sloping (as opposed to short, steep) hip, or pelvis, in the rangy llama is associated with efficiency of stride - endurance over distance.Read more...
  7. The back
    • A strong back is essential in a pack llama and generally speaking, short backs are strong backs. Think of a long unsupported roof span with a heavy snow load.

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  8. The neck
    • The llama’s neck acts as a counterbalance. Watch the llama lying flat on his side as he positions his body to rise. The first motion is a sort of flinging of the neck to gain the momentum to roll up to the sternal position. Llamas that have rigid horizontal necks resulting from spinal injuries are sometimes unable to rise from a prone position without assistance.

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  9. Summary
    • There are countless factors that go into the makeup of a superior pack animal and not all are apparent on visual inspection.  Many deficiencies are not apparent until the animal is put to work.

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