It was Sir David Attenborough in introducing his television natural history series Natural Curiosities who said that the life histories of many species were ‘long surrounded by myth and misunderstanding’ and this was something the programmes aimed to put right. So it is was with llamas and hopefully this volume helps clarify common understanding. Several researchers, mentioned in the pages which follow have, through several different disciplines – anthropology, archaeology, ethnography and zoology, helped better our understanding of the natural history of llamas. Social historians have helped trace their domestication, cultural, economic and social roles in indigenous Andean communities. Most of their work has been published in relatively obscure (to the general public and llama lover) academic journals, research reports (including degree dissertations) and conference papers. Hopefully this book will help pull all this work together in the one place and through simple explanation enable it to reach wider audiences.

Nobody to my knowledge has yet attempted to address the more recent history of llamas. When and how they arrived on British shores, why they were brought here, how they were received, perceptions people held of these animals, what roles they played in society, then and now. For this volume, I have undertaken original research, using a wide but occasionally limited range of sources available to me to start to address some of these issues. (see postscript) This has included an overview of developments in the US in the late 20th century that were to play a significant role in enhancing the popularity and value of llamas in the Western World.

The present day overview discusses the extent of ownership in the Western World, the uses to which llamas have been put, the focus of contemporary breeding programmes to promote certain traits and characteristics. Perhaps more importantly, it analyses contemporary images and iconography of llamas as reflected through breeders, keepers and social media. How and why these came about and spurned new llama themed industries.

 

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