GUANACOS: LIVING AND DYING
When the Spaniards under Pizarro conquered the great country of Peru, about the year 1520, they found much value set upon the race of Llamas, of which four kinds existed in Peru, all of them highly prized for one thing or another.
The llama itself, which is the largest of the four, is chiefly used as a beast of burden, though it can only cany about a hundred pounds weight at a time, and is able to travel no more than sixteen miles a day, or about as much as an ordinary soldier's march. If an extra pound is put on, the llama simply declines to move; and if its driver tries to give it a blow, he will receive something very unpleasant in his face, as visitors to Zoological Gardens know very well! A hundred pounds does not seem a great load for such a large beast, but there are many qualities about a llama which cause him to be employed, rather than many another stronger animal.
First he is there, and in great numbers, so that he is to be had for the asking. Then he is easily managed; never wants water for weeks or months together, and lives on any poor kind of grass (especially a sort called ychu) that he can pick up on the sides of the rocky Andes or Cordilleras. His wool is so thick and clinging, that it is very seldom necessary to tie on the load, which sticks on of itself; a pointed claw enables the llama to walk safely over slippery places, even over ice, much better than any shoes would do, and finally, if no other food is to be had, his flesh is quite tolerable.