Llamas develop fighting teeth designed for biting off the balls of other males! It’s hard to believe that such an innocent looking herbivore could engage in such a brutal act, but it’s true. But then again, they do have a reputation for spitting, which itself is a disgusting act.
For the uninitiated among us, a llama is a herbivore from South America. They are members of the camelid family which includes camels and alpacas. They have been widely used for their meat, as well as a pack animal by Andean cultures. In modern times they have found niche markets not only as a pack animal and meat source, but also for the wool they produce. Often confused with the alpaca, they are nearly twice the size and the fur is not as thick or as soft as the alpacas.
Given their many unique features none are more fascinating than their dental features. The reason their teeth are amazing is because they begin to grow, around the age of two to three years, a set of fighting teeth. These teeth can be found in both male and female llamas and are sharp and almost dagger like. They grow six of them and they are modified canine and incisors. The teeth are located on both the top and lower jaws. The llamas fighting teeth are primarily used by the males for self defence and are used to bite off other male llama’s balls.
How could llamas biting balls be considered self defence?
When a llama initially develops the fighting teeth they are almost always used in play fighting. However, as they age, just like humans, they discover an interest in the opposite sex. Like most animals in the animal kingdom, sharing a mate is something the dominant male does not want to do. By biting off the balls of competing males, a male llama can guarantee that it is his offspring that will live on.
It’s not only other llamas that have to be wary of the fighting teeth. They can pose significant risk to humans, and it’s recommended that they be removed to prevent injury.