CONFIRMATION
 


Many people think they understand llama conformation, but few do truly know what a WELL conformed llama looks like. This page is only a small part of what you should know, but hopefully it can help you to look at some basic things before you buy or breed anything. Remember that a llama can look good standing and totally fall apart when it moves. If you would like to learn more about conformation, you might attend an ALSA (Alpaca Llama Show Association) judges training clinic near you.

Head Area

The shape of the head is a preference. The eyes should be clear, bright and free from regular discharge. The eye should not be droopy (showing the red area of the lower lid) or hanging down. Some llamas will drop their eyelids when stressed so pay close attention to if the llama only does this when they appear to be scared or put into a stressful situation. If they do not do it when just lounging in the pasture, it is most likely just a stress issue. The eyes should NOT be light blue and used in a breeding program. Llama people will say that a blue eyed llama is NOT deaf, this is not true. I know people with blue eyed and deaf llamas. A dark blue eye (they appear dark grey sometimes) is okay to breed from what I have been told by llama vets. Genetic Cataracts can happen in llamas and in this case these animals should NOT be used for breeding either!

http://www.nas.com/~jnkllamas/Con%20blue%20eyes.JPG

(photo courtesy of Gary Kaufman)
Light Blue Eye

http://www.nas.com/~jnkllamas/Con%20Droppy%20Eye.jpg

(photo courtesy of Kathy Kramer)
Droppy Eye

Ears are a controversial issue. They do not affect function of the llama. A llama with bad ears can still pack, pull a cart or participate in other activities. BUT in a breeding program it is frowned upon to breed a llama with ears that are short, gopher like (roundish and shapped like a spoon) or otherwise not geared toward the bannana shaped ears most breeders want. Llama ears should be long, shapely and resemble a bannana. True "Gopher Ears" are very hard to breed out and you can follow them down generations and through various bloodlines. Most breeders do not like ears that sit too far forward on the head (appear to be at a funny angle off the forehead like a visor) either.

http://www.nas.com/~jnkllamas/Con%20Ears%20Good.JPG http://www.nas.com/~jnkllamas/Con%20Ears%20BAD%20.JPG http://www.nas.com/~jnkllamas/Con%20Ears%20Bad%20%20%20%20.jpg
Good Llama Ears

http://www.nas.com/~jnkllamas/Con%20Ears%20BAD.JPG

All BAD Llama Ears
.....Bottom Picture- one is forward, one is back AND they are short and cockeyed.
These particular ears came from a bloodline that consistently throws this. This gelding is a grandson of the animal that consistently produced this! The other two above this picture have spear or alpaca type ears.

Bite is an important thing. You should always check to see that the llamas palate lines up to the lower teeth. You should also make sure that the teeth are even and there. If the llama has worn down their teeth it can be a sign of age or that they may have trouble keeping weight on. A llama with an underbite or overbite has a parrot appearance usually around their lip area. A bite can easily be checked by sticking your fingers in the llamas mouth and running your finger over the teeth and palate.

http://www.nas.com/~jnkllamas/Con%20Parrotmouth.jpg http://www.nas.com/~jnkllamas/Con%20Parrotmouth%20b.jpg

(photos courtesy of Nancy Sottosanti)
"Parrot Mouth". Upper palate does not line up with bottom teeth.

http://www.nas.com/~jnkllamas/Con%20Wry%20Face.jpg

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http://www.nas.com/~jnkllamas/Con%20Wry%20Face%20%20%20.JPG http://www.nas.com/~jnkllamas/Con%20Wry%20Face%20%20.JPG

(First photo courtesy of Brian Pinkerton other photos in memory of Yoda)
There is another condition of the face called "Wry Face". It is a twisting of the upper jaw or face to one side. It is not good and is a form of "Choanal Atresia" It can happen at birth or develop over time. The next three pictures were all taken of a cria shortly after birth that was a CA and Wry Face.

Body/Legs
The body from the side should appear in balance. The back should not be too long and out of balance from the neck and legs. The legs should appear to be straight but, not too straight from the body. The llamas pasterns should be healthy and upright. Llamas that are overweight might or may have dropped pasterns. Obesity is a HUGE problem in llamas as it breaks the llama down and ruins their quality of life usually.
The topline should be flat. The tail should drop off the end of the back, but not be too far up on the back or too low on the back. Age is a factor along with how many cria a female has had, to determining their topline quality. BUT a llama should still look healthy and upright well into their teens. Many breeders say "Oh but he is 10 etc...." This is not an excuse! Llamas can stlll look healthy and good if they are bred well and taken care of!

http://www.nas.com/~jnkllamas/Cinna%20Clove.JPG
GOOD topline and neck to back balance. GOOD tailset an overall well balanced llama.

http://www.nas.com/~jnkllamas/Con%20Side%20Body%20Dippy%20Back.JPG
BAD Topline. This animal was only four when this picture was taken and had not had any cria. She was horribly obese and came from very poor breeding. (sister of animal below)

http://www.nas.com/~jnkllamas/Con%20Side%20View%20Full%20Body.JPG
BAD Topline and BAD Pasterns. This poor guy is totally out of balance. Notice the high rump and high spot at the base of the neck. He is too long bodied and most likely is very overweight. The poor guy is dropping his pasterns in the front lower legs.

http://www.nas.com/~jnkllamas/Con%20Back%20Dippy%20BAD.JPG
BAD Topline. This female is also from the same sire as the first white female pictured above.

http://www.nas.com/~jnkllamas/Con%20Dropped.JPG
(a)
http://www.nas.com/~jnkllamas/Con%20Dropped%20Pasterns%20.jpg
(b)
http://www.nas.com/~jnkllamas/Con%20Dropped%20Pasterns2.jpg
(c)
http://www.nas.com/~jnkllamas/Con%20Rear%20Pasterns.jpg
(d)
http://www.nas.com/~jnkllamas/Con%20Pasterns%20Rear%20b.jpg
(e)

(8-9 photos courtesy of Kathy Kramer)
a-e Dropped Pastern BAD a. Notice how the joint right above the toes is all the way to the ground. There are different degrees of dropping, but this one is FLAT! b. Above is a soft pastern not quite dropped yet. c. Definitely dropped. These animal shown are crippled and should be carefully observed for pain and stiffness. In some cases they may need to be put down after a veternarian has assessed the situation. d. & e. This animal has front and rear dropped pasterns.

http://www.nas.com/~jnkllamas/Con%20Poly%202.JPG
(a)
http://www.nas.com/~jnkllamas/Con%20Poly.JPG
(b)
http://www.nas.com/~jnkllamas/Con%20Poly3.JPG
(c)
http://www.nas.com/~jnkllamas/Con%20double%20toes.jpg
(d)

(c. photo courtesy of Julie Insley)
"Polydactylia" (extra toes) VERY BAD. Llamas should have two toes on each foot. A genetic abnormality that occurs is called "Polydactylia" (pronounced POLY-DAK-TILE). It is when the llama is born with more than the two normal toes on each foot. In these pictures (starting with a.) you will see the extra toe in between where there would only be the two toes. (see b.) In the second picture you will notice the middle toe and the upper dew claw further up the leg. (see c.) This picture shows the extra toe on the side. d. Shows double toes on both feet. This animal's extra digits came from one of the worst genetic issue producers in the llama world. Polydactylia is an indicator of other genetic abnormalities such as "Choanal Atresia" (an upper respiratory problem) that results in the death of the cria (baby llama) in most cases. An animal with this condition should NEVER under ANY circumstances be used for breeding! Both parents should be pulled from a breeding program. It is genetic and not something to be taken lightly.

http://www.nas.com/~jnkllamas/Con%20Leg%20Post.JPG http://www.nas.com/~jnkllamas/Con%20Post%20Leg.jpg

"Post Leg" BAD. Notice how straight the rear legs are coming down from the body. There is NO angle to the hock as opposed to brown llama pictured first on this section.

http://www.nas.com/~jnkllamas/Con%20Sickle%20Hock%20.jpg http://www.nas.com/~jnkllamas/Con%20Sickle%20Hock.jpg

"Sickle Hock" BAD. An over angulation of the rear hock. This is a very common trait in many of the longer wooled llamas and is not something that should be bred. From the side it resembles a sideways "V" in the rear leg.

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(a)
http://www.nas.com/~jnkllamas/Con%20Front%20Legs%20BAD%20.JPG
(b)
http://www.nas.com/~jnkllamas/Con%20Front%20Legs.JPG
(c)
http://www.nas.com/~jnkllamas/Con%20%20Angular%20Knees.jpg
(d)
http://www.nas.com/~jnkllamas/Con%20Angular%20Knees%20.jpg
(e)
http://www.nas.com/~jnkllamas/Con%20Good%20Front%20Leg.JPG
(f)
http://www.nas.com/~jnkllamas/Con%20Good%20front%20Legs.jpg
(g)
   

(d,e & g photos courtesy of Kathy Kramer f. photo courtesy of Debi Garvin)
a-e BAD Front Legs. a. Too Close and angular at the knees. Notice the narrowness comes down from the body not just at the knee. b. Starts wide at the top, comes in at the knees and goes out at the bottom. c. Angular at the knees and toed out at the bottom. d. Left Front leg is turning out badly and both legs are angular from the knees. e. Not as prounounced angulation as d., but still toed out and slightly angular at the knee. All of these animals would have big problems performing in a situation that required any sort of physical work. a-e. Angular fron the knees down causing the llama to look even more toed out. f.-g. Good front legs.

http://www.nas.com/~jnkllamas/Con%20Front%20Legs%20Toed%20Out.JPG
(a)
http://www.nas.com/~jnkllamas/Con%20Front%20Legs%20Too%20Close.JPG
(b)
http://www.nas.com/~jnkllamas/Con%20Front%20Legs%20Wide%20Base.JPG
(c)
http://www.nas.com/~jnkllamas/Con%20Narrow%20in%20Front.jpg
(d)
http://www.nas.com/~jnkllamas/Con%20Splay%20Toe.jpg
(e)
 

(d & e photos courtesy of Kathy Kramer)
a-e More Bad Front Legs. #a. The leg itself is straight but at the bottom toes out on the right front leg. This is a minor leg problem. b. The legs are narrow coming down from the body, but the legs themselves are straight and the toes are just slightly toed out. c. This front shot shows a wide based llama. Notice how far out the legs drop down from the body and how it continues all the way to the ground. When this animal walks, the lower leg actually comes in with the upper part of the leg being much wider than the bottom in appearance. d. The legs are narrow going down from the body to the toes. e. Notice the left foot (and right), above the toes (the rounded area right above the toes) has a angle to it causing the toes to point to the right (and left). This is called "Splay Toed."

http://www.nas.com/~jnkllamas/Con%20Front%20Legs%20Buck%20Knee.JPG http://www.nas.com/~jnkllamas/Con%20backatknee.jpg

"Buck Knee" More BAD Legs. LEFT-This llama has the appearance of leaning forward on it's knees even when standing upright and straight. Notice the slight forward look of the knee. Also notice the FLAT pasterns, this llama was 26 when this picture was taken. RIGHT- This llama is back at the knee (calf kneed). Notice the backward look to the knee area on the opposite side leg.

http://www.nas.com/~jnkllamas/Con%20Rear%20Leg.JPG
(a)
http://www.nas.com/~jnkllamas/Con%20Rear%20Legs%20Angular.JPG
(b)
http://www.nas.com/~jnkllamas/Con%20Rear%20Legs%20Too%20Close.JPG
(c)
http://www.nas.com/~jnkllamas/Con%20Rear%20Legs%20Too%20Wide.JPG
(d)

a-d BAD Rear Legs. a. While these legs do come down from the body with no angle, they are too close together making the llama look base narrow. b. These rear legs are going out at an angle and the left leg is more angled than the right. c. The legs are too close together and they angle out at the knees. d. These legs are too far apart. They do come down straight from the body, but they are wide based.

http://www.nas.com/~jnkllamas/Con%20bowlegged.jpg
(a)
http://www.nas.com/~jnkllamas/Con%20cowhocks.jpg
(b)
http://www.nas.com/~jnkllamas/Con%20narrowbehind.jpg
(c)

(a-c photos courtesy of Cathy Sheeter)
a-c More BAD Rear Legs. a. This llama is bowlegged in the back...notice the legs bow and the toes are going in. b. This llama is cowhocked. The hocks are pointing into each other. c. This llama is way too base narrow in the back, the legs are too close together.

http://www.nas.com/~jnkllamas/Con%20Rear%20Legs%20Good.JPG

GOOD
Rear Legs. The legs come down from the body and are not too wide nor too narrow. Notice that the toes at the bottom are straight forward with no angle out or in.

http://www.nas.com/~jnkllamas/Con%20Tail%20Crooked.JPG

Crooked Tails BAD. There is a difference between a llama that holds it's tail to the side and one that is crooked. You can sometimes start at the top of the tail by the body and run your hand all the way down to the end of the tail to assess if there is a bone problem. Truly crooked tails are bad and should NOT be used in a breeding program because of spinal problems they create. Know that some crooked tails you cannot even feel, you have to have them x-rayed. This can be genetic and does run in some bloodlines. It is also a big negative if people are looking to sell their llamas for breeding or showing.

http://www.nas.com/~jnkllamas/Con%20Tail%20Low%20set.JPG

BAD
Tail Set. A llama should have a tail that drops off the top of a level topline. See picture of first brown llama on this page for a good tailset. This tailset is low which gives the llama a rounded appearance in the rump. Roundness to a rump is actually an alpaca trait.

http://www.nas.com/~jnkllamas/Con%20Tailset%20Good.JPG http://www.nas.com/~jnkllamas/Con%20Good%20Tailset.jpg

(right photo courtesy of Wendy Cummins)
GOOD Tail Set. Notice how the tail drops right off the end of the back.

Know that temperament, can be very genetic. High strung or aggressive animals can make more of the same! When breeding you should pay attention to not only conformation, BUT disposition and trainability. Certain lines will produce mellow easy to train babies and other lines produce negative behaviors that should not be perpetuated. Both temperament and disposition should always been considered when pairing animals for breeding.
Coat type should also play a factor in your breeding selections. For example,you should not breed medium or heavy wooled llamas for packing. Packers prefer classic type coat styles for packing and physical work. Research the type of animal that does the job you may want to do, prior to just breeding and trying to make a square peg fit into a round hole.

A good livestock breeder always tries to breed best to best. Knowing about conformation is important and should always be considered when breeding anything. Llamas live 20-25 years and need to have good bodies and minds to live healthy. Llamas with poor structure have a compromised quality of life. This webpage in no way is meant to indicate that you shouldn't also see an animal walk and touch it. It is important to view an animal from a standing and moving position. You should also touch them to make sure that the wool is not hiding anything!





 
 
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