Fluffy llama ears might look really cute, but they do serve a purpose.
Classic llamas tend not to have woolly ears; instead the ear opening is completely unobstructed, enabling them to detect faint sounds and pinpoint locations. This is one reason they make such excellent guardians for goats, sheep, alpacas, calves, foals or any other creature that tends to fall prey to our wild canine predators.
The downside to having unobstructed ear canals is that they are open to all the elements. Being foragers, they tend to push their heads into bushes, tall grass and foliage. Insects, seeds, and other bits and pieces of vegetable matter fall into the ear opening. Hay and even rain can be funneled into the ear, creating blockages, irritation and even infection. Head-shaking is the most common sign of something irritating the ear canal and clearing the ears manually is really difficult and quite dangerous. We have learned that it’s best to leave them alone, unless it’s really serious and we usually find that within a day or two the llama has managed to dislodge the offending piece of hay. Flushing the ear with warm salty water is possible, but unless you can be sure of draining all of the fluid, then it’s best not to attempt this without veterinary assistance.
In the summer time, those ears take on a new role as fly swats. In Peru, many llamas have their ears pierced and wear decorative tassels that increase the swatting range to include the eyes, which are prone to fly irritation. The tassels also help to prevent insects from entering the ear.
Argentines and other fiber llamas have naturally hairy ears and as a consequence, they are much less prone to ear problems. We have noticed however, that they are not quite as alert as the Classics, when it comes to predators.
….and there’s the likes poor Ping, who lost her ears to frostbite and she suffers terribly with ear irritation. I think we might have her ears pierced this year!
There’s more to an llama’s ear than meets the eye!
The Llama Sanctuary is dedicated to caring for llamas who have been abandoned, neglected or otherwise found themselves homeless. Please visit our Fiber Arts Store Online. All proceeds from sales are donated to the Llama Sanctuary.