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The llama is a herbivorous quadruped that has four legs and eats plants. A native of South America, it has rubbery lips, the better to gather up a really juicy mouthful of spit, a bendy neck for maximum accuracy when aiming at unsuspecting tourists, and long eyelashes, the better to flutter its lids innocently at the next unwary victim who dares to say "Gee, what an enormous goat, Elmer!"

Llamas also have low-slung backs, all the better to load with huge basketloads of firewood, camping equipment, potatoes, tacky souvenirs or anything else you think you might need when halfway up the Andes. Some people think they have to load these things onto the llama one at a time, stepping back slowly and carefully after each item and letting their friends all have a turn, but they are probably confusing real life with the game "Buckaroo", and shouldn't be encouraged.

The word "llama" means "flame" in Spanish, but how anyone thought that nomenclature should applied to this particular creature is a bit of a mystery. It's doubtful that the Conquistadors arrived in South America and were immediately confronted with the sight of herds of blazing llamas sweeping majestically across the pampas. Nor are there any ancient Aztec myths about the sacred llama that is reborn from the flames (like a phoenix) or can survive the raging fires of hell (like a salamander) to account for the name. A more promising line of enquiry might be an early Inca barbecueing disaster, but details are uncertain. For whatever reason, setting fire to any llamas you may come across to see how combustible they are is not recommended. The answer might well be "Very, hence the name", and innocent eyebrows could be endangered.

Llamas should not be confused with those wise old Buddhist men that sit on hilltops seeking enlightenment. That's Lamas, with just the one "l". Anyone accosting a llama on a mountainside and hoping for a few words of mystical wisdom is likely to get a faceful of spit. Frustrated lamas with one "l" who were hoping to get a bit of peace and quiet without being pestered by naive backpackers every ten minutes are advised to take up the same approach.

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