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This is the VOA Special English AGRICULTURE REPORT.

When Americans think of where coyotes live, they probably think of desert states in the Southwest like Arizona. But over time, these wild dogs have spread all the way to the East Coast.

Some farmers have guards to protect their sheep from coyotes. These guards are llamas. Llamas are South American animals usually raised in the United States for their fiber or for show or as pets.

But farmers and ranchers noticed that llamas get along well with sheep. They also noticed that over time, coyotes were killing fewer sheep. So they chose llamas for guard duty.

Llamas do not need any training. Farmers usually place only one with a group of sheep. Llamas are social animals. Two llamas together will not pay attention to the sheep. A lone llama has no choice.

In the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, farmer Leo Tammi has several hundred sheep. His dogs help him control and protect the flock of sheep. But the dogs are not always available. So he uses llamas.

Whenever anything enters the fields, they know about it. He says their natural interest, and willingness to face almost anything that comes near, is enough to scare away a shy animal like a coyote.

Their size also helps. Llamas can weigh as much as one hundred thirty-six kilograms. And they look something like a small horse -- a funny looking horse with a lot of fine, soft fur.

Llamas are not vicious animals. However, if they are not around people at a very young age, they will not like to be touched. In many ways a llama is just as defenseless as a sheep. But llamas have a secret weapon. They spit.

When they get angry, they spit out the contents of their stomachs. The result looks and smells terrible.

Llamas really know how to make a statement. In fact, you can find examples of llama sounds on the Internet -- just remember that llama is spelled with two Ls, L-L-A-M-A. If they sense a threat, they make an alarm sound. This is what a male sounds like:

(SOUND) And this is a female alarm call.

Llamas are New World camelids along with alpacas, vicunas and guanacos. Camelids are a family of animals that also include the camels and dromedaries of Africa and Asia.

And that's the VOA Special English AGRICULTURE REPORT. To see a video report about llamas, go to I'm Steve Ember.

00:00 / 03:54
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