Llamas are making a comeback at the Routt County Fair. For the first time in several years, two 4-H members showed the long-haired, South American relatives of the camel.
A 10-year-old llama named Slater, owned by 11-year-old Eddie Brenner, won the showmanship and obstacle course classes. Twelve-year-old Alana White showed her less-experienced llama, Bandito, which she bred and raised.
Brenner and White have been around llamas most of their lives, but Friday was the first time either showed their animals.
"We're hoping this will catch on," said Gerald Brenner while he watched his son prepare Slater for competition.
Gerald Brenner said the friendly llamas have become a more practical way to guard sheep in some parts of Routt County. He uses three llamas to guard sheep on his ranch on Colorado Highway 131, near the residential area at Catamount Lake.
"The llamas are real inquisitive. Anything strange that comes into the pasture, they'll check it out," Gerald Brenner said. He said llamas intimidate predators, such as foxes and coyotes, eat thistles along with grass and are easy to deal with.
The 4-H llamas shown Friday are pack animals. They weigh between 400 and 450 pounds and can carry up to about 90 pounds each. White explained that llamas are low-maintenance animals, requiring an annual clip of the toenails, a trim of the fur along the sides to keep them cool when packing and a cut of the "fighting teeth" every few years so they don't attack each other while trying to establish their dominance.
After judge Ann Copeland scrutinized the two llamas, Brenner and White led their animals through an obstacle course in the arena. The obstacles were designed to simulate things a llama might encounter on the trail, such as a bridge crossing, passing under a branch, going through a gate, stepping through scattered logs and jumping over a downed tree.
Brenner's older, more experienced llama fared better on the obstacles, having been used as a pack animal before. White's llama, which won't begin packing until next year, was a bit more stubborn when it came to stepping onto the makeshift bridge.
"One thing about llamas is that they're very talented. If there's an easier way to do it, they'll take it," judge Copeland said at the end of the show.
Both contestants said they'd be back for the 4-H llama show in 2005.
At the close of the llama show, Copeland also announced that a new llama club is forming and that they are in search of new recruits.
"We're trying to get 4-H all fired up about this," said Nancy White, Alana White's mother.
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