Our Unorthodox Guard Llama: A Humorous Tale

The humorous story of a family’s attempt at sheep protection using a guard llama.

  • Guard llama Mack with his Jacob sheep charge, Levi.
    Illustration By Brian Orr
  • Mack the guard llama defending Levi the Jacob sheep from the predations of the veterinarian.
    Illustration By Brian Orr

My family owns a small sheep farm in Minnesota — or at least at one time it was just a sheep farm. Over the years, our acreage has evolved into a sanctuary of sorts for creatures who have worn out their welcome at their previous homes: angry rabbits, a bouncing-off-the-walls terrier, several geriatric sheep geezers, and a large, antisocial llama. This one llama, no doubt like other folks’ less useful livestock of every sort, became a beast of burden, indeed, just not in any favorable sense of the word.

It sounded perfect

We knew the llama came with some behavioral baggage, and his adoption was not an altogether altruistic gesture. We were in dire need of a guardian for our sheep. It was a dry summer, and coyotes were coming out of the woodwork to devour lambs and other small living things.

Though we already owned one llama and two alpacas, these three wool-bearing camelids were worthless as protectors. They had come to us as adult animals. Since they hadn’t grown up as part of the sheep flock, they lacked any protective instincts toward it. And, at least in my experience, if you have more than one llama or alpaca, they tend to form their own herd group. Enjoying their cozy and exclusive clique, they couldn’t care less if a wolf carried away the entire sheep flock. A young llama, pastured alone with the sheep, was just what we needed.

So, when a neighbor dropped by and told us that he needed to find a home for an aggressive yearling llama, my husband reluctantly agreed. “Mack is just a little overly friendly, likes to get in your face,” said the neighbor. “He’s a bit high-spirited, but you’re gonna love him. Just don’t turn your back on him.” Maybe this should have raised a red flag.

Behavioral issues

Mack arrived bright and early the next morning. He clattered off the livestock trailer and into a small corral near the barn, next to the pasture that housed Camilla, the prima donna of our camelid community. It was love at first sight for Mack. In order to increase the likelihood of Mack bonding with the sheep flock, Camilla and the two alpacas were moved to a more distant pasture, while Mack joined the sheep to assume his solo guard llama gig.

However, Mack had no interest in sheep. That brief exposure to a female of his species had whetted Mack’s appetite for romance. In the following days, Mack spent all of his waking hours pacing the fence line that separated him from his long-haired, snaggle-toothed paramour. It was not unusual for the big brown bully to gallop right over the top of anyone who dared interfere with his Camilla-watching. This became quite irritating (and eventually quite debilitating) for those of us who happened to cross his path while going about the farm chores. We moved Mack to a separate, isolated pen for our own safety, hoping that the raging of his hormones would eventually abate.

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