Have you ever heard the phrase ‘I’m so angry I could spit!’ ? I bet a llama owner said it first. In fact, there’s not a lot on Google about where the idiom came from, so I’ll go with my llama theory.
Llama’s seem to be notorious for spitting; it’s usually the first question I get when I tell people that I have llamas. “But don’t they spit?” Mal-tempered, misunderstood, badly handled, pushed-past-their-llimits llamas at zoos are probably responsible for this reputation. But when handled correctly, you shouldn’t be the recipient of well-aimed llama saliva.
Why do llamas spit
Llamas do spit. It’s a form of communication for them; a warning that they are annoyed. A female will spit at a male if she is not interested in his advances, llamas will spit at each other when competing over food, or they will spit as a form of protection (pretty passive, if you ask me). It can be used to establish dominance and to discipline crias. Some llamas are just grouchier than others and spit more frequently.
However, when handled correctly, llamas respect their human handlers and very rarely spit at them. Trouble comes along when llamas think humans are llamas and treat them as such. This often happens in petting zoos where limits are not established.
Llamas will give several warning signs before they let loose with a long stream of saliva. They will flatten their ears back against their head and raise their chins so their noses are almost pointed to the sky. If the aggressor doesn’t back off, they will blow out a little air and salivia making a funny pffft noise. If you see these signs, you should back off.
When their warning signs don’t work, llamas dig deep for the full-blown spit. After the first warning, the airy spit, they will regurgitate some of their stomach contents and spit a green, gloopy, smelly glob with amazing accuracy. Even up to 10-15 feet away. The spit has an unpleasant, pungent smell.
The spit is just as offensive for the spitter as it is for the spittee. After spitting, a llama will often stand around with its mouth hanging open as it tries to clear the smell. It obviously dislikes spitting and uses it as a last resort.
So the next time you are angry, try saying you are so angry you can spit green. Thinking about llamas might help lighten the mood.
Blogging my way from A to Z as part of the 2016 April A to Z Challenge! My theme for this year: Llama mama. S for Spit.
Photo courtesy of Chris Sampson.