To answer the question “are llamas ruminants”, we need to first find out what ruminants are.
What Are Ruminants?
Taxonomists classify ruminants in the order Artiodactyla and the suborder Ruminantia. There are many different species of ruminants around the world. Ruminants run the gamut from the familiar – sheep, goats, cows – to the less so – buffaloes, antelopes, okapi.
Several characteristics set ruminants apart from other animals. They have two-toed feet, small or nonexistent upper front teeth, and a four-chambered stomach.
A Simple Breakdown Of A True Ruminant’s Digestion Process
- In order to consume as much as possible in a short time, ruminants do not completely chew what they eat.
- Large quantities of this partly chewed matter are stored in the rumen, the largest of the four stomach chambers.
- This chamber teems with millions of microorganisms, which break down the partially chewed grass and vegetation into balls of cud.
- When a ruminant has eaten its fill, it will rest and regurgitate the cud to chew it again and further break down its hard-to-digest cellulose content.
- The cud is then swallowed by the Ruminants. Then the cud then passes into the other stomach compartments. These compartments are the reticulum, the omasum, and the abomasum, the true stomach, where it is further digested with the aid of microorganisms.
So, Are Llamas Ruminants?
The short answer is – No. While llamas are in the same taxonomic order – Artiodactyla – as your typical ruminant, they belong to a different suborder, Tylopoda. There are several characteristics of llamas that keep them from actually being ruminants.
The Digestive System Of Llamas Exclude Them As Ruminants
- The differences start right in a llama’s mouth since their dental formations are different.
- Compared to the typical ruminant, llamas have more incisors and canines, fewer premolars and the same number of molars.
- Llamas only have a three chambered stomach. Whereas, as we saw before, ruminants have four-chambered stomachs.
- Ruminants are generally more susceptible to bloat than the llamas.
The Make Up Of Llama Blood Excludes Them As Ruminants
- Llama blood has small, elliptic red blood cells, while ruminant blood has large, round cells.
- In Addition, llama blood has nearly twice the number of white blood cells found in ruminant blood.
- Finally, llamas also have significantly higher blood glucose levels than ruminants.
Body Characteristics That Excludes Llamas As Ruminants
- A llama’s upper lip is split and prehensile. Ruminants, on the other hand, do not have split lips.
- Where many adult male ruminants possess horns, llamas of both sexes have none.
- Llama feet have triangular-shaped toenails and a fat pad covered by a soft, flexible slipper. In contrast, the ruminant foot features a hoof and a sole.
- Finally, unlike ruminants, llamas do not have cloven feet.
Reproductive And Post Birth Characteristics Exclude Llamas As Ruminants
- Reproductive Differences
- Copulation takes place in a prone position for llamas. Meanwhile, true ruminants Will copulate while standing.
- Unlike true ruminants, llamas do not have an estrous cycle.
- The tips of llama penises have cartilaginous projections; however, this is not true for ruminants.
- Post Birth Behavior Differences
- Female ruminants will lick their offspring, check dead fetuses, and sometimes eat the placenta after birth.
- On the other hand, female llamas do none of these things.
Differences In Susceptibility To Certain Diseases Exclude Llamas
- Ruminants are highly susceptible to the foot-and-mouth disease, tuberculosis and bovine brucellosis.
- Llamas, on the other hand, show mild susceptibility to the foot-and-mouth disease and minimal susceptibility to tuberculosis. There are no known natural cases of llamas suffering from bovine brucellosis.
Are Llamas Ruminants – Closing Thoughts
As current or perspective llama owner or just someone trying to learn a little more about llamas, it is particularly important to know if llamas are ruminants. As you can see, there are clear differences between llamas and ruminants in nearly every aspect. However, nearly every day llamas are attack by people that are ignorant of this fact.
This is especially true of pack llamas. Some special interest group or another is always trying to get llamas banned from public lands and one reason they give is – llamas are ruminants. They throw this out despite all evidence that llamas are not ruminants from whatever angle one may care to look – not taxonomically, physiologically, anatomically or behaviorally.
An Example Of Unfair Treatment
In 2003, Canadian officials closed the border to llamas and other camelids. A cow in one province of Canada was diagnosed with bovine spongiform encephalitis. This disease has never been diagnosed in llamas; however, the officials who closed the border to llamas pointed to the encyclopedia definition of ruminants – animals with cloven hooves and three- or four-chambered stomachs that chew cud – to justify their action.