Intermittent bursts of rain couldn’t keep the crowds away from four adorable llamas visiting the Eden Prairie Library on Sunday, June 18.
Mocha, Bob Marley, Sophia, and Journey each received their fair share of walks, pats, and hugs from visitors ranging from mere infants to senior citizens, as they milled about the Reading Garden behind the library.
Eden Prairie resident Ken Fricke said he wouldn’t have missed the event for the world.
“I’ve had it on my calendar for months,” he said, as he strolled with an extremely agreeable llama named Bob Marley.
“When I saw this event in the paper, I said, ‘I’ve got to go.’ Three of my grandkids are also on their way over.”
The llamas live in Waconia at Carlson’s Llovable Llamas, which was founded 25 years ago by Rick Carlson.
Having grown up on a dairy farm in central Minnesota, Carlson said that instead of living in town, he decided he wanted to live in the country and have some animals. It was important to him to have animals that were good with kids, especially since he had children at the time who liked to have their friends come over.
Deciding what kind of animals to have was the hard part. “Most people love animals, but most animals don’t care about people. Cows will kick you randomly, goats jump on you, and sheep are about this high and take out your knees, and all that kind of stuff,” he joked.
However, he said once he interacted with some llamas at different events, raising them became the obvious choice. “Everything about them was just so good, and they just surfaced to the top easily,” he said.
Carlson said that his llamas are well-socialized, friendly, and gentle with humans: “That’s probably the main comment I get from everyone — how mellow and docile they are.”
Although this was Carlson’s first event at the Eden Prairie Library, Carlson said he frequently brings his llamas to educational events at libraries and other locations around the state. Without fail, he said his llamas are always extremely popular with visitors.
The public is also able to book visits in advance to Carlson’s farm to meet and walk with the llamas, host birthday parties, attend llama camps, and more.
The llamas are also available for outings including special events, school settings, and therapy visits. This summer, Carlson’s llamas will take part in the Minnesota Zoo’s Llama Trek exhibit, which they have done for the past five years.
Carlson also leases some of his llamas to students in the 4-H program, who often take them to the county fair as well as the Minnesota State Fair. Fans of the state fair may have seen some of Carlson’s llamas taking part with their 4-H handlers in the extremely popular annual Llama-Alpaca Costume Contest.
Fun facts about llamas
In addition to getting to interact with the llamas, visitors to the Eden Prairie Library event also had the chance to learn more about them.
Carlson explained to the attentive crowd that llamas are smart, social, curious herd animals native to the mountains of South America. As cold-weather animals with thick, warm fleeces, they are well-suited to being outside even during harsh Minnesota winters.
Each spring, the llamas’ bodies are sheared of their high-quality fleeces, which are then cleaned and spun into extremely soft yarn. Shearing keeps the llamas cool over the hot summers, and the fleeces grow back in time to keep them warm in winter.
Carlson demonstrated that as members of the camel family, llamas have a split upper lip and bottom teeth in the front of their mouths. This allows them to grab food more easily and delicately.
“It’s kind of like fingers, and then they use their tongue to manipulate food to the back of their mouth where they have teeth on the top and bottom,” he said.
Like camels, cattle, sheep, goats, and many wild animals, llamas also are ruminants, which means they have multiple stomachs. “So all that food they eat — the hay, the grain, the apple treats — it goes through all three of those stomachs, and each stomach digests more of the nutrients from the food,” Carlson said.
Llamas have no natural predators, but Carlson said that occasionally coyotes threaten them: “Then the llamas might spit, chase, kick, or pounce on them.”
However, llamas usually only spit when they have disagreements amongst themselves. “It’s extremely unlikely that a llama will spit on you,” Carlson reassured the crowd. Llamas also communicate with each other by humming.
Llamas are fast movers when they want to be. Carlson said they can run up to 30 to 35 miles per hour, but generally need to be tempted with a pail of grain to run that quickly.
Some of Carlson’s llamas will be racing at the Unicorns and Llamas event at Canterbury Park at 1 p.m. on July 9. Tickets and more information can be found here.
“They get the llamas and the ‘unicorns’ to run in between horse races. It’s really a fun day,” Carlson said.
When asked why he thinks people like to come see the llamas so much, Carlson chuckled, “I don’t know — I guess because they’re just so lovable.”
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