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Why Do Llamas Spit?
Llamas definitely do spit, a trait they share with other South American camelids. I’ve seen a llama spit all over a tourist in Bolivia and -- believe me -- it’s not a pretty sight. Thankfully, most llamas are gentle creatures that rarely spit at humans, normally reserving their globs of regurgitated stomach-spittle for members of their own species.
Llamas spit as a show of dominance over other llamas, particularly when feeding. Spitting at a lower-ranked juvenile llama in the herd is also a form of hierarchical discipline.
A llama might also spit when threatened by a predator -- a sufficiently vociferous spit attack is sometimes enough to scare off an assailant. Other methods of defense include kicking and charging.
If raised correctly, llamas are unlikely to spit at humans unless they feel directly threatened. The llamas at Machu Picchu, for example, are generally very well behaved.
When raised incorrectly, however, spitting at humans can become far more common. This is either because... the llama has been mistreated and no longer trusts humans, or because it has been raised by humans and therefore sees them as part of the herd. If a llama sees you as just another llama, it might want to show you who’s boss.
In Peru, there are some llamas that you need to watch out for (through no fault of their own). These include llamas in zoos, llamas raised by humans without the company of other llamas, and llamas used as photo opportunities to extract money from tourists (llamas with ribbons and bells in their hair might look cute, but they might not be too happy with the whole situation).Continue to 2 of 2 below.
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What Is Llama Spit?
There are different levels of llama spit, ranging from a gentle and almost unnoticeable spray to a sticky concoction raised up from the depths of the most distant stomach compartment.
When mildly irked, a llama will spray a simple mist of saliva that packs no real punch. If it happens to be eating at the time, and quite possibly in defense of its food, the llama will spit out the contents of its mouth (sometimes known as grain spit).
Things get a lot more disgusting when a llama feels seriously irritated or threatened. When this happens, the llama regurgitates a rancid green fluid from one of its three stomach compartments (the contents of the third compartment is the most potent).
Before unleashing this green and stinky stomach-content, the llama first pulls its ears back (see image above), then raises its head and begins to gurgle. Immediately after that, it’s time to duck.
This regurgitated spit won’t do you any harm (there’s no face-melting acid to worry about), but it might ruin your... day -- especially if you’re a long way from the nearest shower or change of clothing.
A llama can spit over a distance of about 10 to 15 feet (3 to 4.5 meters). Even at that range, a llama can spit with surprising accuracy, so don’t drop your guard too quickly.
As noted above, most llamas are gentle, curious and well-socialized creatures. But if you think a llama is looking at you funny, don’t underestimate his aim…