About Dalai Llama
His Wooliness the Dalai Llama
Chief Pack Master, Captain of Curiosity, Admiral of Admiration, Spiritual Guru to Sojourners, and Generally A Great Guy
Dalai Llama is such an amazing creature! He’s five-soon-to-be-six years old and very tame. His name uses the Spanish pronunciation “Doll-eye YAH-ma” so as not to offend His Holiness The Dalai Lama, spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism. However you say it, though, as long as you have treats in your hand, he answers to Dalai, Dalai Llama, Dalai Yahma, and simply Llama and Yahma. So, it’s all good.
I adopted Dalai when he was four from a petting zoo that was closing down in Camdenton, Missouri. As trail companions go, he’s a big fella. I’ll have to break out the tape measure to get the specs on his back and head height and over all length, but for now, know that for llamas he’s medium-to-large range and weighs in at about 325 lbs.
On the trail, he’ll eat forage and llama feed, a pelleted food designed specifically for llamas., and grain treats. His entire pack, from saddle, to straps. to filled panniers, will weigh a maximum of 80 lbs, though that will decrease between resupply points as we both eat our food. He’ll drink between 1-3 gallons of water each day, though as a member of the camelid family, he may choose to go a day or two or even three without touching lips to liquid.
At the start of the trail, we’ll travel about 8-10 miles per day, and work up to 18-20. (Llamas can actually go farther — up to 28 or so miles per day). However, they are incredibly curious and observant animals and the PCT is far too beautiful to race through. I expect we’ll both benefit enormously from a slower pace.
Llamas are allowed on the PCT because they cause no more damage than deer. In fact, they eat many of the same foods and both have pelleted poop. (If you’re on the trail and spy moderately large scattered brown pellets that look like Deerzilla stopped by…. that would be Dalai). Unlike Horses, llama have soft feet pads with two toes. They are especially adept at climbing rocky mountains.
They’re also great protection animals. Farmers in the Midwest often use them as sheep and cattle guards. The will chase, take on, and kick the bejeepers out of any coyotes and wolves that dare enter their territory or try to harm their proteges.
While an angry bear could easily take down a llama, it’s incredibly unlikely that they’d try. Most bears have never encountered a llama before. Since nothing inspires fear in animals like an unknown stranger, if they happen upon Dalai and me, they’re far more likely to take one glance and run for their lives.
As well, when llamas are frightened or wary, they emit a really unusual high-pitched alarm cry that sounds a bit like the rusty engine in a really beat up old jalopy trying and failing to start. (You can listen to it here). Imagine hearing that on a dark moonless night in the deep wilderness. Yea, that would keep me away, too!
Probably the common question folks have about llamas is if they spit. They do. But it’s their last means of expressing their deepest desire for you to step back. They hate spitting as much as we hate being spit upon. It’s hard to do and makes their mouth taste awful.
Llamas also give clear signs (to anyone who can read them) they’re reaching the spitting stage. Typically they’ll make a clicking sound and flatten back their ears. (This isn’t always a sign of discomfort. Sometimes, it’s just intense focus, hesitation, or uncertainty.) Next, they will likely “air spit” — blast your with a puff of not so sweet-smelling breath. And finally, finally, when those benign tactics have failed, they’ll push their ears back and raise their head so high that it forms a straight line with their neck, pull up a green, gooey glob of 100-percent, bona fide, authentic stomach YUCK, and hurl.
Come to think of it, llamas don’t so much spit as vomit…
The good news is that most llamas reserve their “spitting” for other llamas during turf conflicts and mating. Even better news: Dalai Llama has never spit at me (though he did once air spit in my direction when I set his evening treats out of reach to untangle his picket line before feeding him. Clearly, he had a different set of priorities!) And the best news: In the almost two years that I’ve had him, he has not once spit at anyone — not family, friends, neighbors, or strangers. He’s such a good guy!
If you have any questions about Dalai Llama, feel free to drop me an email.