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.

Some thought needs to be given to optimum bone size as well. Muscles are only as strong as the bones to which they are anchored. A llama too fine and light in the leg bones may have difficulty remaining sound over years of packing. A llama with extremely heavy bone may suffer from reduced endurance. Optimum bone size has been determined in many equine breeds by measuring the circumference of the front cannon bones below the knee, and relating this measurement to long term performance.

 Perhaps in time we will be able to determine optimum range of bone size in the working llama by this same method. A seamstress’s tape measure pulled snugly around the front cannon bone just below the knee will do the trick. We have measured a light-boned llama at 5 ¼” circumference, a medium-boned llama at 5 ¾ “, and a heavier-boned llama with 6 ¼” cannon bones. Both the medium and the heavier-boned llamas are males, both proven high-end packers. The light-boned llama is a female.

There is likely a much wider variation in bone circumference than the figures given here. These are just a few llamas we did measure, and it is not known at this point how – or even if - bone size affects strength or stamina in the working llama.

Long upper leg bones for range of motion (reach and leverage) and short cannon bones for strength are very desirable.

Long upper leg bones for range of motion

Greater animal stamina

A slight toeing out both in front and behind is considered to be normal in the working llama. This is quite different from angular limb deformities such as knock knees and cow hocks, which are to be avoided.

It is important that the joints of the leg - the stifle, hock and fetlock joints behind, and the elbow, knee and fetlock in front - all be aligned in the same vertical plane to minimize stress on any one joint. If, for instance, the llama’s hind toes point slightly outwards, then its stifle joints should also angle outwards slightly, and the hock joints slightly inwards.

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