Male Llamas Bite Off Each Other’s Genitalia

By Mike Devlin on Thursday, December 19, 2013
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“Thou shalt not covet, but tradition / Approves all forms of competition.” —Arthur Hugh Clough, “The Latest Decalogue”

In A Nutshell

Llamas are quirky-looking barnyard animals frequently seen munching crackers at a petting zoo. Angry llamas are known to spit, but they are capable of much worse. They possess wickedly sharp fighting teeth that the males use to rip each other’s testicles off.

The Whole Bushel

Nature has many ways of ensuring the survival of the fittest. One of these is the competition for breeding rights. Animals battle each other tooth and claw for the privilege of mating. Rams smash their horns together, lions savagely battle to maintain their prides, and the things that insects do to each other should make us glad that they can’t scream. But the humble llama takes things to levels hard to even contemplate.

Though some breeders have been able to house them together, male llamas generally do not get along. Their battles can be quite vicious, complete with bloodshed and broken bones. Around the time they become sexually mature, males develop six fighting teeth, two upper and one lower set (females develop them too, though later in life). These are fearsome canines that would do any wolf proud.

The fighting teeth are used to tear into opponents; after a battle, the llamas might exhibit torn ears or gashes along their flanks. But the favored target is the testicles. To secure the title as the only fertile male in a herd, llamas will attempt to castrate each other. For this reason, many farmers elect to have the fighting teeth removed.

Even after castration, llamas can be extremely dangerous. They have been known to attack and even kill people on occasion. In the American West, they are frequently used to guard flocks of sheep against predators like coyotes. They are very alert creatures and bond with the sheep like their own offspring. Should a predator approach, the llama will charge. They have been known to kick dogs and coyotes to death protecting their sheep.

Show Me The Proof

Dental Anatomy of Llamas
Removal Of Fighting Teeth
National Geographic: Guard Llamas Keep Sheep Safe From Coyotes