Llamas communicate by humming and can eat poison ivy with no ill effects.
By NANCY TULLIS
VINDICATOR SALEM BUREAU
LISBON -- Llama lovers at the Columbiana County Fair here hope the animals' presence will entice young people to give llamas a fair chance.
Tiffany Wolf, 17, of Lisbon is president of the junior fair and a member of the Llucky Llamas 4-H club of Lisbon. She said llamas are attentive, affectionate animals that will chase away stray dogs and eat just about anything green.
Nationwide, the animals are gaining popularity as 4-H projects, but not as quickly in Columbiana County as in other areas of Ohio, she said.
Members of the Llucky Llamas 4-H club hope that will change. Tiffany said llamas are fun 4-H projects and they make good pets.
Her sister, Stephanie Wolf, 12, said that she often spends time in the pasture with her female llama, Tori, and the other llamas. She hums to the llamas. They hum back.
Llama wool can be used to make clothing, and Stephanie is learning to spin the wool.
Stephanie's parents, John and Debbie Wolf, bought llamas after seeing them at the Ohio State Fair several years ago.
They love horses and wanted their kids to have 4-H projects, but they found caring for llamas required much less work than caring for horses.
She said Llucky Llamas members can take 4-H projects other than llamas, but there are enough llamas to go around. Some of the llamas are "on loan" to members who might not be able to buy a llama of their own or who don't have space at home for them.
TabethaFrantz, 14, is the daughter of Jeff and Tina Frantz of Lisbon, who are also Llucky Llamas advisers. Tabetha captured top honors with her male llama, Chestnut.
Nuzzling nose to nose with Chestnut, Tabetha explained that showing llamas for 4-H is similar to showing horses. Judges check participants' knowledge about their animals and how they handle them.
Contestants bathe and brush and clip the llamas to judges' specifications, and on the hot days during the fair, they sprayed cool water on the llamas' legs.
"Llamas chew their cud like cows, but they only have one stomach," Tabetha said. "Cows have more than one, but llamas have one with different compartments. The judges always try to trick us with that question."
Tabetha said that llamas eat a mixture of corn and other grain and that they are grazing animals. She said they also often eat poison ivy with no ill effects.
Humming is just one form of llama communication, said Tabetha. They make good watch animals because they are tall, and when they sound an alert, they whinny like a horse.
Tabetha said some fair visitors are afraid to approach the llamas because they've been told that a llama would spit on them.
She said spitting is another way llamas communicate, but that is usually from one llama to another when they are displeased, she explained.
"You have to get a llama pretty mad for it to spit on you," she said.
According to Tabetha, the animals signal with their ears in much the same way as horses, putting their ears back when they are displeased and moving them forward when something draws their attention.
Stephanie said llamas are most often found in South America, particularly Peru, where they are used as pack animals.
She said one llama judging event is the pack class, where participants have to show judges the llama will cooperate while participants secure a pack to their back. Participants then lead the llama through a course with obstacles such as a bridge or water and fallen logs.
Stephanie said llamas are intelligent animals and train easily. Although she said "brushing them is sometimes a pain," she is comfortable even though the animals tower over her.
She said they don't mind traveling in a trailer and are generally calm.
"I like a calm llama," Stephanie noted.