Ccara llamas are first and foremost a working breed. They are becoming extremely rare and efforts are underway to
preserve the species both here and in South America. Breeders and the tourism board in Peru are working diligently in
a joint effort to locate, promote, and reintroduce superior examples of ccara llamas, both as a means of helping the
indigenous Indian communities and in a fight to insure the survival of genetics honed by the Incas for generations. Local
llamas (as elsewhere) have become quite small due to inbreeding and crossing with alpacas and can no longer carry
significant loads. Most trekkers to Machu Picchu sadly now have their gear carried by human porters as a result.
Educational projects are underway to teach locals proper breeding principles and ecotourism llama treks are being
offered as a way for families to earn a living. To learn more about the project go to llamapackproject.com .
Here in the United States ccara llamas are also extremely threatened and in short supply. Anyone who has attempted to purchase high end pack stock can attest to the difficulty in locating suitable prospects. Those with seasoned packers don't want to let them go and it takes years to progress from cria to full fledged pack llama. A two year old can begin tagging along on trips carrying a light load (usually sleeping bags and pads or other bulky but lightweight gear) but really should not carry more than 10% of his/her body weight. Most of us agree that a full load should not be carried until maturity (around 4 years). People searching for breeding stock are finding that to be an even more difficult endeavor. While efforts are underway to increase ccara populations there is no quick fix and there is the added dilemma that most of us breeding ccaras have related bloodlines which narrows genetic diversity. We are always on the hunt for suitable outcrosses.
Several concerned individuals worked together to form the North American Ccara Association (NACA) in 2008 as the registry for the working llama. It is a sub-registry of the International Lama Registry and llamas must be registered or listed with the ILR to be considered for NACA screening. The mission is to seek out, preserve, perpetuate, and promote the best specimens of the working llama-the Ccara. Go to ccarallama.com for information on screening criteria and to learn more about the organization and efforts to save these amazing creatures and perhaps find help with your search for ccara llamas.
Also realize that needs vary greatly. Ccaras are the ultimate if you need a true athlete and, as breeders, it is our obligation to strive to produce animals that would have made the Incas proud- those that can preform year after year effortlessly logging the miles without breaking down, with a willingness to work, animals that can reproduce easily and maintain good health and parasite resistance. Breeding requires a critical eye. But, if you are looking for a trail companion, ask yourself what you really need. Are you a long distance hiker, photographer with lots of gear, a hunter looking to carry out an elk- someone in need of a performance animal or are you simply wanting to get into that lake 5 miles in with young kids or enjoy day hikes.There are lots of available llamas that can easily perform in the capacity of a light packer, carrying lunch on a hike with friends or longer trips with moderate weight and proper conditioning. Sometimes a friendly, easy going PR personality is more important. There are also countless llamas out there that would/should never be picked as breeding stock; those with conformational faults, terrible strides, etc. but with the "heart" and trust in their handler to preform as amazing packers. Just remember "buyer beware". A reputable seller stands behind their animals and wants a good match. They will take the time to mentor new owners and be available to answer questions. Thankfully the days of any llama that didn't make it in the show ring being plugged as a "packer" are mainly over but due diligence is still important.
1940 pack llama postcard from Peru