The Lama by Francis C. Woodworth


This animal, which belongs to the same family with the camel, is a native of some parts of South America, and is used as a beast of burden. He is capable of carrying from one hundred to one hundred and fifty pounds, and on the steep places where he is usually employed, will walk with his load twelve or fifteen miles a day. When lamas get weary, it is said they will stop, and scarcely any severity can compel them to go on. Some of the accounts of these singular animals represent them as having a bad trick of spitting, when they do not like their treatment. In this respect, they resemble a great many strange sort of men I have met with on our side of the equator, who will spit from morning till night, sometimes on the carpet, too, on account of a very nauseous weed they have in their mouths—with this difference, however, that the lamas spit when they are displeased only, and the men spit all the time.

Some one who has been familiar with the animal in South America, and who has seen it a great deal in use among the Indians there, presents a very interesting account of its nature and habits. He says, "The lama is the only animal associated with man, and undebased by the contact. The lama will bear neither beating nor ill treatment. They go in troops, an Indian going a long distance ahead as a guide. If tired, they stop, and the Indian stops also. If the delay is great, the Indian, becoming uneasy toward sunset, resolves on supplicating the beasts to resume their journey. If the lamas are disposed to continue their course, they follow the Indian in good order, at a regular pace, and very fast, for their legs are very long; but when they are in ill-humor, they do not even turn their heads toward the speaker, but remain motionless, standing or lying down, and gazing on heaven with looks so tender, so melancholy, that we might imagine these singular animals had the consciousness of a happier existence. If it happens—which is very seldom—that an Indian wishes to obtain, either by force or threats, what the lama will not willingly perform, the instant the animal finds himself affronted by word or gesture, he raises his head with dignity, or, without attempting to escape ill treatment by flight, he lies down, his looks turned toward heaven; large tears flow from his beautiful eyes; and frequently, in less than an hour, he dies."