Llama berserkers

According to animal breeders you should avoid bottle-feeding baby llamas, because when they grow up they might go berserk.

Sheila Sund, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Young male llamas like to fight each other for dominance or for fun. They kick, they spit, and they wrestle with their necks:

(The soundtrack adds a certain something, no?)

The wild guanaco – cousins of the llama – fight to gain breeding rights, and that often involves attempting to bite off their competitors’ private parts:

Adult llamas can weigh up to 200kg and are tall enough to look people in the eye without difficulty. Which makes it rather alarming when a llama decides that they want to fight you.

There’s a condition known among llama breeders and keepers as “berserk llama syndrome.” It’s not a medical or genetic condition (unlike the so-called avalanche of rage syndrome, which I may write about another time); no, this is a behavioural problem. It affects llamas which have been raised very closely by humans – fed with a bottle, for example. Such llamas may imprint on people and see them as just another kind of llama.

This is all very cute, right up until the llama grows up and decides that it’s time to assert its dominance. To put it simply, the llama may go berserk: biting, kicking, charging, neck-wrestling. Such berserk males are usually put down.

Llama aggression is not all bad, though. If they’re imprinted on newborn lambs instead of humans, they can bcome “guard llamas.” They’ll protect a flock of sheep at night, attacking and sometimes killing predators like foxes or coyotes.

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