One of the only things that many people know about llamas is that they have a reputation for spitting. Well, those rumors are true, llamas do indeed spit regularly, as do their smaller relatives, the alpacas. But what are the reasons for this behavior and is there a way to prevent it from happening?
In this article, we’ll learn all about this unpleasant llama habit, including why llamas spit, whether they ever spit at humans, and how to prevent llamas from targeting you.
Why Do Llamas Spit?
Spitting is one of several ways that llamas communicate with each other. Female llamas may spit at males who are getting a little too fresh with them. Llamas of all ages and genders spit at each other as a way to show dominance and sort out the pecking order of their social group.
If llamas feel threatened, either by predators or humans, they may react by spitting at the threat in self-defense. Working llamas may protest carrying what they feel is too heavy a load by spitting, kicking, or lying down. This behavior has earned them a reputation for stubbornness that’s only partly accurate.
Related: 4 Different Llama Breeds
How Far Can Llamas Spit?
When they fully commit to their spitting, llamas can launch their liquid weaponry a full 10 feet from their mouths.
Usually, before they start spitting, llamas try to get their point across with visual cues like staring daggers at their target and flattening their ears to their head. They’ll progress to blowing out a little air and saliva next, making a noise as they do so.
Llamas do all this to avoid having to spit because it’s actually quite unpleasant for them. They’re spitting out regurgitated stomach contents which are—as you might imagine—thick, smelly, and disgusting. Spitting it out leaves a foul taste in their mouth that they’d prefer to avoid.
Do Llamas Spit At Humans?
While llamas regularly spit at each other, they only rarely direct this behavior towards humans—lucky us!
Occasionally, llamas do spit at humans if they feel threatened or are in a bad mood, but it’s not common in well-socialized adult animals.
However, llamas who are bottle-raised or handled by humans too much before they are 6 months old are much more prone to spitting at people. Llamas raised in this manner imprint on humans and grow up believing that people are the same species as them. Because of this, they treat humans like they would other llamas, including regularly spitting and kicking at them.
How To Prevent Llamas From Spitting
There’s no way to keep llamas from spitting at each other, nor should you, since it’s a normal part of their communication and behavior. However, there are some steps you can take to keep llamas from spitting at humans.
To avoid raising an imprinted, badly behaved adult llama, keep the handling of baby llamas to a minimum in their first 6 months of life. Orphan or sick babies who must be bottle-fed should also have plenty of opportunities to socialize with other llamas to minimize the chances of imprinting.
When you’re interacting with llamas, watch for any visual cues that the animals are upset. If you notice a llama staring at you while laying their ears flat on their head, avert your gaze and try to act non-threatening to de-escalate the situation. Hopefully, the llama will accept your behavior change, calm down, and avoid spitting.
Generally, llamas are friendly and docile animals who make excellent pets or working companions. While we may not understand their need to spit, we can accept it as a quirk of behavior so long as it’s not directed towards us. And as we’ve learned, llamas only rarely spit at humans. However, any domestic animal, including llamas, is capable of unpredictable behavior and it’s important to always remain alert around them and never tease or provoke any creature.
Next on your reading list:
- How Fast Can a Llama Run? Everything Your Need to Know!
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Featured Image Credit: Andrew Goodsell, Shutterstock