6. The Hindquarters

Power for locomotion – the thrust – is provided by the hindquarters. Long upper leg bones maximize the area for muscle attachment. Long, well anchored muscles are needed here for the powerful and rapid contractions that will propel the loaded llama with ease. A long thigh (hip to stifle) and/or gaskin (stifle to hock) with good angulation in the hip and stifle joints provide the necessary shock absorption and range of motion capabilities. As with the shoulder, a long sloping (as opposed to short, steep) hip, or pelvis, in the rangy llama is associated with efficiency of stride - endurance over distance. The more compact-bodied llama with a steeper pelvis likely has more power (load-bearing strength), and with length and good angulation in the pelvis and upper leg bones, is a different style of athlete."

Llama hindquarters      powerful llama hindquarters

      Long sloping hip & shoulder                   Short, steep hip & shoulder     

The combination of a short steep pelvis and short, rather straight upper leg bones (poor angulation) may not be the best type of conformation for long-distance packing. If combined with thickness through the loin, then short strides and poor range of motion would likely be the result. Such a llama would have little stamina.

Maximum efficiency is directly related to angulation in the hindquarters. The cannon bones and hock joints need to be directly under the pelvis for most effective use of the power generated by the muscles. Think of yourself moving a heavy weight. You would not try to lift at the end of your reach, but rather, position your hips, shoulders and back as directly under the load as possible.

 

 

Well conformed hind legs can be assessed at almost any point in the stride. A line extended up from the cannon bone will touch, or come close to, the point of the buttock.

This athletic female has very well conformed hindquarters. Maximum thrust is provided directly under the hips. She is, perhaps, a little light-boned.

Long upper leg bones in the Ccara llama are very different from the alpaca type structure.  Many people who have limited experience with the working llama wrongly interpret length in the upper leg bones as being a ‘post-legged’ type of conformation. The Ccara, with his long thigh and gaskin (tibia), typically has little angulation in the hock joint. The more pronounced angulation in the hip and stifle joints together with these long upper leg bones are what give the Ccara his superior range of motion.

Be very sure you can distinguish between ‘post-legged,’ and simply long-legged and rangy. The truly post legged llama will have very limited angulation in the hip, stifle AND hock joints, resulting in a severely restricted range of motion. (Short stride)

     

 Post-legged (Photo from Niki Kuklenski’s website)  


The athletic llama with good angulation and long upper leg bones will have a very superior stride length and above average stamina

Sickle hocks and the ‘camped out behind’ type of conformation should be avoided in the working llama. 

Some alpacas and llamas have unusually long gaskins without the corresponding  length in the pelvis and femur. This results in an abnormal, “crouchy” stance. This llama below is sickle-hocked:

 

    

Sickle hocks

 A sickle-hocked llama is unable to fully straighten his hocks, thus reducing the thrust needed for efficient locomotion.

The llama who is “camped out behind” is able to straighten his hocks, but much of the thrust is lost when the hock joints are placed so far behind the hips.

     

   Camped out behind

Llamas that are cut up high in the flank have ample unrestricted room for the forward motion of the hind legs and generally have more stamina than thicker-bodied animals.

                 A thick-bodied llama.                                       Cut up high in the flank   

         

   

One final comment on hip slope: show ring judges discriminate against female llamas with the vulva more on a horizontal plane than a vertical plane. This is a carry-over from the horse world where fecal contamination of a more horizontal vulva (common in Thoroughbred mares) has occasionally resulted in uterine infections.

The long sloping hip which gives Thoroughbred mares their long rangy stride is associated with the shelving of the vulva. The long sloping hip is a desirable attribute in the working llama, as it is with Thoroughbred mares.

Older llama females with the long sloping hip who have had several pregnancies and a resulting slackening of muscle tone will show this tendency of the vulva to lie on a more horizontal plane. We do not consider it to be a fault – quite the opposite.

On the other hand, some females with a steep, vertical hip slope have been observed to suffer from urine scald during the winter months. Although urine scald is diet related, we have never seen a case in a female with long sloping hips. With this type of conformation there is less likelihood of urine running down between the buttocks and causing irritation.

 

   Urine Scald on a female                        The shelving vulva on a older female
     with a short steep hip                                    with a long sloping hip.

     

Muscling on the inner thighs should appear as well defined bulges of different muscle groups, when viewing the llama from behind. Even the overweight llama or the thin llama should show this definition to some degree. Llamas with a smooth line from the inner thighs to the hock, (no definition at all) are likely weak in the hindquarters. The female in the photo, above left, has very little muscle definition on the inner thighs even though she is slightly overweight.

     
Nice muscling on an immature male.       Poor muscling, little definition

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