Guanaco are classified in the family Camilidae and are South America's largest land mammal. This family includes the Old World camelids; the Dromedary camel, Camelus dromedarius, and the Bactrian camel, Camelus bactrianus, and the South American Camelids (SACs), the Llama, Lama glama, alpaca, Lama pacos, guanaco, Lama guanicoe and the vicuna, Vicugna vicugna. All of the SACs can produce fertile crosses and indeed the alpaca and llama are run so closely together that cross breeding is a very common occurrence and at one time threatened the true line of species. Although Camelids have a complex three part stomach, they are in fact not ruminants as the digestive system is slightly different, they do not have horns or antlers and instead of a cloven hoof, they have callous pads ending in two claws. Camelids have been described in the suborder Tylopoda, meaning pad-footed, in the Order Artiodactyla. Alpacas and Llamas exist only as domestic species whereas the guanaco and vicuna are wild. Guanaco can be found at altitudes ranging from sea level in Tierra del Fuego to 4000 metres along the Andes of northern Chile, Peru and Argentina. The environments that they inhabit range from the Atacama desert, one of the driest in the world to snow capped, wind swept peaks, glaciers and even forests. Guanaco have to cope with bleak winters, driving snow, freezing temperatures, fierce winds and a generally poor vegetation. There are areas of lush bog areas known as bofadels which are prized territories for breeding males. Guanaco are both grazers and browsers able to take opportunity of any potential food source. Guanaco are found in relatively small numbers outside of South America, mainly in the USA, Europe and Australia. Zoos and wildlife parks are the main locations but growing numbers of people are keeping them on small holdings, either as tourist attractions, as pets or as hobby fibre producers. A minority keep them as 'farm' animals such as here at Esgyrn. They have excellent digestive systems that enables them to graze on marginal land that other livestock won't accept and they also mix well with other livestock.
Last update:January 2, 2007 at 17:47:24 UTC