Llama lovers gather with hillbilly flair

wcrenshaw@macon.comMarch 1, 2014 

PERRY -- If you crossed a giraffe with a goat, gave the offspring the personality of a dog and brought in Snuffy Smith to show it off, you would be close to what was going on at the Georgia National Fairgrounds and Agricenter on Saturday.

Llama lovers came from around the Southeast for the Hillbilly Llama Show, in which fun and costumes are emphasized more than good grooming technique.

Llamas are useful. They can pull carts, carry packs and guard other livestock from predators. They are sometimes used as caddies at high-end golf courses and also are valued for their wool.

The show featured events that included the llamas navigating and obstacle course and pulling carts.

But folks at Saturday’s show, put on by the Southern States Llama Association, love llamas mostly for their varying personalities and keen intelligence.

“What I’ve learned about llamas is that they all have different personalities,” said Jessica Wilson, of Winnabow, N.C. “You have to be very patient with llamas because it requires a lot of trust.”

Hank Balch, of Hendersonville, N.C., brought three llamas to the show. He has been involved with the creatures for 21 years.

“It’s always a challenge to work with these animals and see what they can do,” he said. “And you’ve got a great group people here.”

He uses llamas often for educational events, including taking them to nursing homes.

Cassie Knight, of Jefferson, has been working with llamas for six years, and has taken them to libraries and schools.

“I love that they are sweet animals,” she said. “They are pretty much like big dogs.”

A challenge to raising llamas is to understand that, like dogs, they are pack animals and follow a hierarchy. If llama handlers aren’t careful, the animals can begin to see them as another llama and might spit on them to show dominance.

“It’s important that the human maintain not only the alpha but the super alpha,” said Vicky Sundberg, also of Winnabow, who has seven llamas.

About 120 llamas participated in the show, which continues Sunday morning.

To contact writer Wayne Crenshaw, call 256-9725.

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