Llamas are like potato chips - you want more
PEOPLE who keep llamas as pets will readily offer you any number of reasons: Llamas are quiet, they're gentle and affectionate, they don't take a lot of work to maintain and, for outdoor animals, they don't smell bad.
But it's more than that.
Look at a llama and it'll gaze back sympathetically with those huge, beguiling eyes, ears perked up, looking for all the world like it understands you and really cares about your problems.
Most people start with two or three, since llamas are sociable and don't like to live alone.
But as Ms Katrina Capasso, a llama owner in Ballston Spa, discovered, "they're like potato chips." It's hard to stop at just a few.
Ms Capasso, 49, received her first llama as a wedding gift from her husband Gary in 1990. Now she has 55.
That irresistible quality may explain their popularity as pets.
A few decades ago, they were almost unheard-of in the United States. Today there are about 115,000 in the country, according to the International Lama Registry.
The population of alpacas, their smaller cousins bred primarily for fleece, is about the same, according to the Department of Agriculture. But alpacas are beasts of burden and have a very different gestalt.
Do not get a llama owner started on alpacas.
"Llamas are like dogs: they are your friends," said Mrs Pam Fink, who keeps 13 pet llamas at her home in Georgia and is expecting three babies this month.
"Alpacas are more like sheep. They're not going to play with you, not going to be your friend."
Llama breeders have been known to pay as much as US$30,000 (S$38,000) for a top-quality male, but a regular pet llama can be had for less than US$500.
And given the demand for llama fibre, which is as highly-prized by knitters as alpaca fibre, you might be able to earn some of that back.