5. The Front Quarters

The athletic pack llama with great endurance will be able to reach forward like the llama pictured leaping off the boulder, to give it a long free stride.

Black Thunder - Athletic Pack Llama

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.

A slightly steeper shoulder provides, perhaps, for greater load-bearing strength. If combined with long upper leg bones and good angulation at the ‘elbow’ joint , good range of motion will still be in evidence.  Such a llama may have this plumb line closer to the front legs. 

Again, long upper leg bones are associated with an energy-efficient way of going – i.e. athleticism.

Llamas with  steep shoulders, short upper leg bones and short necks such as the ones shown below would have limited range of motion and probably would not stand up to heavy packing. These llamas do not have energy-efficient bodies.

Llama with steep shoulders     Short neck llamas

The front legs and shoulders on a llama carry the bulk of the animal’s weight, perhaps as much as 2/3 of the total. Powerful muscling at the attachment of legs to chest is critical to long-term soundness in an animal that spends much of its life packing heavy loads in the mountains. There is a tremendous amount of stress to the shoulders when a packed llama is tackling steep downhill terrain, with sudden and frequent changes in footing and direction.

Consider also the stress to the front legs and shoulders when the loaded llama, on a steep uphill climb over loose rock, looses purchase with his hind feet and has to claw his way upwards with his front toenails. In this instance he needs to immediately shift into ‘front wheel drive.’

 Look closely to see the excellent muscling at the inner attachment of front legs to chest on these boys below. The twin shadowy bulges of muscle are clearly shown in the llama on the left, and on the white leg of the right-hand llama.


Here’s a close up of another young male with excellent chest muscling:

young male with excellent chest muscling

Heavier bone may be an advantage for the llama packing big loads in the mountains. The lanky, rangy, streamlined llama on the left, below, does well at a fairly rapid pace with moderate loads. He would rather run than walk. The more compact-bodied, heavier-boned llama shown here on the right, excels carrying maximum loads over rugged terrain. He is an unusually powerful animal, as is the dark brown and white llama shown on the right, earlier. All three are high-end packers.


Both the above boys have excellent leg-length/girth depth ratios, both are comparable wither heights (48” – 49”), and both are cut up high in the flank. Both are lean and fit with a relatively narrow stance. Both have excellent length and angulation in the upper leg bones, although the proportions differ quite considerably between the two. The brown llama appears to be exceptionally long from stifle to hock, and from the point of the shoulder to the elbow. The white llama appears to have exceptional length from hip to stifle, and from withers to the point of the shoulder. Both are smooth moving, long striding athletes.

The white llama has heavier bone (6 ¼”below the knee compared to 5 ¾” on the brown boy) shorter cannons and a more compact body. He outweighs the brown fellow by at least 50 lbs, has heavier muscling and is likely a more powerful llama.

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