Guanaco - Encyclopedia




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GUANACO, sometimes spelt Huanaca, the larger of the two wild representatives in South America of the camel tribe; the other being the vicugna. The guanaco (Lama huanacus), which stands nearly 4 ft. at the shoulder, is an elegant creature, with gracefully curved neck and long slender legs, the hind-pair of the latter bearing two naked patches or callosities. The head and body are covered with long soft hair of a fawn colour above and almost pure white beneath. Guanaco are found throughout the southern half of South America, from Peru in the north to Cape Horn in the south, but occur in greatest abundance in Patagonia. They live in herds usually of from six to thirty, although these occasionally contain several hundreds, while solitary individuals are sometimes met. They are exceedingly timid, and therefore wary and difficult of approach; like many other ruminants, however, their curiosity sometimes overcomes their timidity, so as to bring them within range of the hunter's rifle. Their cry is peculiar, being something between the belling of a deer and the neigh of a horse. The chief enemies of the guanaco are the Patagonian Indians and the puma, as it forms the principal food of both. Its flesh is palatable although wanting in fat, while its skin forms the chief clothing material of the Patagonians. Guanaco are readily domesticated, and in this state become very bold and will attack man, striking him from behind with both knees. In the wild state they never defend themselves, and if approached from different points, according to the Indian fashion of hunting, get completely bewildered and fall an easy prey. They take readily to the water, and have been observed swimming from one island to another, while they have been seen drinking salt-water. They have a habit of depositing their droppings during successive days on the same spot - a habit appreciated by the Peruvian Indians, who use those deposits for fuel. Guanaco also have favourite localities in which to die, as appears from the great heaps of their bones found in particular spots.

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