The llama’s foot gives the impression that it is a hoof, like goats, cattle, sheep, and pigs. But in reality, it is not.
Llamas do not have hooves. They have two toes with several bones for balancing and walking over uneven terrain. The toes each have keratin toenails that need trimming and maintenance. The llama’s toes have tough pads on the underside. Their feet support a large portion of their weight and the toes can spread apart as they walk for balance and grip.
This article will offer greater detailed information about llama’s feet, and how they function in relation to stability and gait.
Quick Facts About The Llama
Llamas (Llama glama) belong to the Camelidae family, which also includes alpacas, vicuñas, guanacos, and several species of camels, capable of interbreeding.
Llamas are domesticated livestock, living primarily in the Andes Mountains in South America. As herbivores, they graze on grass and other vegetation.
Llamas do not have humps like camels, yet are slender with long legs and necks. They have a high thirst tolerance and endurance, making them a hardy transport pack animal.
Llamas are also used as sources of food, leather, fleece, tallow (candles), and dung (fuel).
If this mammal is overhandled or mistreated, it will hiss, spit, lie down, refuse to move, or kick.
About Llama Feet
Camelids, such as the llama, do not have hooves. Llamas are the suborder Tylopoda (calloused foot) of even-toed ungulates. Their feet have two toes, with toenails, and soft, yet tough foot pads.
Toe And Foot Function
Llamas walk with unguligrade locomotion, meaning that most of the llama’s weight is supported by phalanges (bones) in each toe), with vertically-oriented interphalangeal joints.
These phalanges are connected to the distal limb (connecting to the knee) at an angle from 60 to 65 degrees.
The toes of a llama are called third and fourth digits with a pair of proximal sesamoid bones (which help to stabilize the animal).
The tough leathery sole pads of llamas help them to maintain grip and stay sure-footed on rocky and steep terrain. Their weight is distributed across the foot with increased pressure or velocity.
The movement and flexibility of the llama’s toes help it navigate and stabilize its feet on long treks in areas that would be inaccessible or difficult for hooved animals, such as mules or horses.
The softer step of a llama is also less damaging than the step of a hooved animal.
The llama’s toenails, made out of the protein keratin, will naturally wear down as it moves across rough terrain, especially as pack or transport animals.
However, if they do not regularly traverse rough ground, then they need human intervention to trim these ever-growing nails. Toenails can also become uneven or curled causing an uneven gait as the animal accommodates the toenail.
A study found that llamas do not transition from walking to galloping with ease. They tend to jump in between the transition of the gaits.
As they walk, llamas will move their legs on the same side in conjunction with each other. This type of movement makes them unstable as they shift their weight.
However, their limbs from one side do not tangle with limbs from the other as they move, thus allowing them to have a greater stride, and save energy.
Conversely, as a llama runs, it switches from symmetrical leg movement to an asymmetrical, transverse gait.
Transverse involves rotational movement of the joints, as the llama attempts to move faster without tangling its long legs with each other.
As a result, llamas do not trot naturally and can move with an uneven stride, dragging divergent feet, or winging legs out.
They are best suited for a walking, paced gait, around 1.5 to 2 miles per hour (mph) over various terrain surfaces.
Trimming with toenail snips or garden pruners is a painless procedure, needing to be done every 6 weeks up to once a year, depending on their condition.
Trimming is done so the nail is flush with the toepad, allowing the nail to touch the ground when the foot is flat. Any shorter than that can cause an uneven gait or blood to flow if the quick (soft tissue in the nails – much like a human’s nail) is cut.
Trimming also removes any packed in dirt and debris, reducing the risk of infection.
If nails are not trimmed, the llama’s foot is increasingly prone to injury or infection, as well as the inability to walk or stand properly. Curled nail tips can force the llamas to turn their feet over, thus crippling them.
While trimming the nail is painless, it can be difficult for a handler to easily do it. Llamas do not like to have their legs and feet touched and may kick out.
Generally, trimming is a two-person job. A llama needs to be tethered to a rail or gate and fed treats while someone else slowly and calmly trims the nail. The trimmer bends the leg in a natural position for the animal that allows it to maintain balance.
Llamas have toes, not hooves, belonging to a group of animals with calloused, even-toed feet.
Each foot has two toes, with ever-growing toenails and leathery sole pads. The toes have bones angled and jointed with their legs for flexibility as they walk over various terrains. The toes can spread apart for increased stability.
Toenails need to be trimmed and maintained to prevent uneven walking, crippling, or infection.