Chewie: Llama, Guardian, Friend To All

-By Kym Sunday, a Cox Farms Farmhand

At 6 feet tall, Chewie takes his job seriously. He stands guard over our herd of goats that he has adopted as his own family. If you take a stroll through the goat pen where Chewie hangs out, he will follow you around, watching your every move to make sure that you mean no harm to his family.

Social llamas love being a part of any herd. They don’t like canines, such as coyotes, foxes or dogs and will behave aggressively towards them. Sheep ranchers in the midwest figured this out and began using llamas to guard their flocks of sheep from predators. A guard llama will defend it’s flock in a number of ways – by sending out an alarm call, walking or running towards an intruder. They might paw at or kick it and have been known to kill coyotes. They may also herd their flock into a tight group and move it to a safe area.

Gentle, calm and curious, llamas are highly intelligent and very easy to handle. They quickly learn things like carrying a pack, pulling a cart, accepting a halter and being led around. Chewie even knows his name! One of the Cox’s grandchildren walks to the bus stop every morning and when she yells a cheery “Good Morning Chewie,” he immediately looks up, and moves his ears dramatically to acknowledge her from afar.

Chewie is about a year and a half old and came to us from a farm in Pennsylvania. His award winning hair will be turned into yarn and then knit into something gorgeous by Lucas Cox’s wife. Llamas come in all kinds of fun colors and patterns. Black, white, browns, reds, polka dotted, solid, and patterened.

In the Andes Mountains of South America, llamas are used as pack animals. They are members of the camelid family – which includes camels, llamas and alpacas. They can walk up to 20 miles in a single day carrying up to 75 pounds. This is how most goods get moved through the rough terrain in the Andes. They won’t however tolerate being overloaded. If they are they may lie down on the ground and spit, kick or hiss until the burden is lightened.

Llamas are herbivores – meaning they only eat plants or plant material. They don’t require a lot of water. They usually live to be between 15 and 25 years old and adults can weigh between 280 and 450 pounds.  Baby llamas are called crias. Most llama mammas only have one cria at a time. Gestation is about 350 days and she will deliver her 20 to 30 pound cria standing up.   They start standing and nursing within about 90 minutes of birth and are weaned at around 6 months.

It’s true that llamas spit.  It’s their way of saying “Leave me alone.” They mostly spit at other llamas but will certainly spit at humans if they are mistreated. Chewie is much more polite than the average llama and we have never seen him spit.

Don’t forget to say hello to Chewie the next time you visit his goat family at Cox Farms!

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