A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

August 11, 2008

Spit Leaves a Bad Taste in the Mouth

Filed under: alpaca, Alpacas, camelids, General, llama — Tags: , , , , — alpacalady @ 6:08 am


Maya Demonstrates The Post Spit Droopy Lip

Maya Demonstrates The Post Spit Droopy Lip



Well it does at least if you are a llama or an alpaca.


One of the questions we are frequently asked at Open Farm Days is “Can alpacas spit” It sometimes seems as if the general public are a little pre-occupied by the thought of llamas and alpacas spitting.  Of course both alpacas and llamas can spit, but usually they have to be provoked to do so.


Most alpaca or llama owners have experienced being on the wrong end of a spitting incident, but if you talk to them you will usually discover that they were either caught in the cross fire between two alpacas or llamas (or even one of each) or were doing something that the animal concerned with was not too thrilled about, such as toe nail trimming or shearing.  Feeding time is another time when spitting may occur as the llamas or alpacas send messages to their herd mates that one particular area of hay or bowl of food is theirs.


One farm I know used to allow visitors to hand feed their alpacas, until they realized that feeding time is one of the times when alpacas will spit at other alpacas who try to get their food.  With the farm visitors having handfuls of feed to give to the alpacas they soon found themselves in the crossfire of a spitting match – not good public relations material.  So the farm in question stopped the visitors from hand feeding and the spit problem went away.


Pregnant female alpacas and llamas can be a little more inclined to spit.  They are often hormonal and tired of carrying their cria around and so tend to be more temperamental and who can blame them, after all they carry their crias for 11 months or longer.  Who wouldn’t be tired and hormonal?


Llamas in particular seem to have an even bigger spit reputation and people are often surprised when I tell them that our three llamas have never spit at us or at any visitors to the farm.  That’s not to say that they don’t spit at all, but they reserve that behavior for each other or the alpacas at feeding time.  Our llama ladies will come up and sniff at people to check them out but then they will step back and keep a watchful eye on the farm visitors from a distance.


One thing that many people are not aware of is the “droopy lip” that alpacas and llamas exhibit after they have spit.  The spit is not at all pleasant in taste and so after spitting the alpacas and llamas let their bottom lip completely relax (as demonstrated by Maya in the picture at the top of this blog entry) and walk around with their bottom lip drooping.  To the unitiated owner or farm sitter this can cause concern that something is wrong with the alpaca or llama displaying that behavior, when in fact all that is happening is an “airing out” of the lip and mouth to help clear the bad taste.  It’s not unusual for an alpaca or llama displaying such a droopy lip to seek out some hay to chew on in order to remove the bad taste from their mouth.


Spitting is a minor part of alpaca and llama behavior, with them having so many other charming attributes it is a shame that spitting is the one thing that people seem to focus on when thinking of alpacas and llamas.   To the owners of alpacas and llamas who know how docile and endearing their animals are that thought process leaves a bit of a bad taste in the mouth – just like spit (except that thankfully us alpaca and llama owners don’t walk around with a droopy bottom lip!)



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