By JENNIFER A. KINGSON
Randy Harris for The New York Times
Sarafina is one of nearly 60 llamas at Richard Snyder’s farm in Milford, Pa.
People who keep llamas as pets will readily offer you any number of reasons: llamas are quiet, they’re gentle and affectionate, they don’t take a lot of work to maintain and, for outdoor animals, they don’t smell bad.
But it’s more than that. Look at a llama and it’ll gaze back sympathetically with those huge, beguiling eyes, ears perked up, looking for all the world like it understands you and really cares about your problems.
Most people start with two or three, since llamas are sociable and don’t like to live alone. But as Katrina Capasso, a llama owner in Ballston Spa, N.Y., discovered, “They’re like potato chips.” It’s hard to stop at just a few. Ms. Capasso, 49, received her first llama as a wedding gift from her husband, Gary, in 1990. Now she has 55.
That irresistible quality may explain their popularity as pets. A few decades ago, they were almost unheard-of in this country. Today there are about 115,000 in the United States, according to the International Lama Registry, which keeps genealogical records.
The population of alpacas, their smaller cousins bred primarily for fleece, is about the same, according to the Department of Agriculture. But alpacas are not beasts of burden and have a very different gestalt. Do not get a llama owner started on alpacas.
“Llamas are like dogs: they are your friend,” said Pam Fink, who keeps 13 pet llamas at her home in Georgia and is expecting three babies in August. “Alpacas are more like sheep. They’re not going to play with you, not going to be your friend.” (Note: alpaca people might take issue with this.)
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Taking Sugar for a walk. A few decades ago, llamas were almost unheard-of in this country. Today, there are about 115,000 in the United States.
Yearlings at Dakota Ridge Farm in Ballston Spa, N.Y., pose for the camera. From left, their names are Shooting Starr, Zorreo, Zandor and Malaki.
The llama named Cinnamon Toast basks in flowers and sunlight.
Llama breeders have been known to pay as much as $30,000 for a top-quality male, but a regular pet llama can be had for less than $500.