As you pass the field where the llamas live at Mudchute, stop for a moment and watch them. They look so calm, elegant and proud. Try humming softly to yourself and you may see their beautiful long ears swivel around like radar dishes until they catch your sound and pinpoint where you are.
Like all animals that have a language, a communication system that we have managed to understand a little bit of. We know that they signal to each other by wiggling their ears and waggle their tails like semaphore flags.


Their young are called crias – prenounced KREEuh- which is Spanish for ‘baby’ and they chat to them by making humming sounds.
To defend their young, they will stamp and kick out at any creatures trying to attack them. In fact, they are superb nannies and guard creatures and at Mudchute and where ever else they are kept, they will put in the same fields as ewes and lambs, goats and kids to protect them.


They are very clever and can tell a friendly dog from a predictor by sight.
If they get angry or frightened they make a sound like “Mwa’. They are not bitey creatures They have no upper teeth, so that would be difficult but when they are annoyed Or fight with each other, they will spit lots and lots of stomach contents over great distances or stick out their tongues or neck wrestle.


Llamas evolved on the plains of North America 40 million years ago.
Think about that as you look at these incredible animals. You are looking at a creature that has spent 40 million years evolving. Around 3 million years ago, their ancestors relocated to the highlands of South America.


Humans have been living with them for around 6000 years, mostly because we figured out that they are really good at carrying heavy loads for long journeys over rocky paths because they can grip so well with their hooved feet.
They can carry about 25% of their own body weight, but if a human decides to overload them they will refuse to move or lie down until their burden is reduced. This is a really clear way to communicate their thoughts and feelings to humans.


There are other reasons why humans want to live alongside llamas. They have soft undercoat which is light and warm and water repellent that can be worked to knit or weave incredible comfortable garments. Their thicker outer coat is coarser but can be used for making ropes and rugs.
They are also great companions for people because they are vegetarian, so their poo doesn’t smell much and when it is dried out it can be used as fuel for fires.
What noble beasts.


Humans started keeping herds of goats around 9000 years ago because they realised that they were great providers of milk and therefore cheese and also that they could eat the meat of goats too. In fact even now, people eat goat more that any other animal.


Their feet are cloven, this means that they have two horny-like toes which can grip onto rocky places and allow them to do some pretty impressive climbing up mountains and in trees.

Like sheep and a lot of other hooved animals goats have horizontal rectangular pupils so that they can see all around them and look out for other animals that want to hunt them for food.

goldengoat There is a bit of a myth about goats liking to eat almost anything they can find. They are quite picky eaters and they test things with their soft and sensitive lips to make sure that it is tasty and clean before they munch it up. They don’t graze like sheep do. In the wild they love to forage, that means that they wonder around all over the place looking for the yummiest things that they can find, they even climb trees to get to juicy leaves and berries.

They have four stomachs to help with things that are difficult to digest. Each stomach is cleverly designed to get a different set of nutrients out of the food that they eat. The first of their stomachs is called the rumen and it can hold up to four or five gallons of chewed up food. They have a habit of regurgitating this back up so that they can chew it again. This makes them burp, very loudly.

blackgoat Male goats are called billy goats, females are called nanny goats and the babies are called kids.

A nanny goat is pregnant with the kid for about five months and the baby can stand and even walk only minutes after being born. They also have their own unique call and scent which is how the mother can find and identify them.

They are very sociable creatures and if you were to keep one goat all alone it would become lonely and extremely depressed.

You may notice a very strong goaty smell when you visit their field at Mudchute. This is because in goat world it is considered very romantic and attractive for the billy goats to cover themselves with their own wee. The smell is apparently irresistible to the nanny goats.


For thousands of years humans have kept pigs, mostly for food, but they have been used for other reasons as well.
In ancient Egyptian times pigs were used by Farmers as a sort of living tractor. They would encourage them to trample all over their fields, snuffling around with their marvellous sensitive noses for juicy things to eat up. Their trotters would sink down into the earth to a perfect depth for the Farmer to sow seeds for next years’ crop.

Pigs are the cleanest beasts on the farm.
They never ever poo or wee inside their house and are always very careful to use their outside toilet.
So when people call them “dirty Pigs” that’s really not fair. They don’t deserve that reputation.
Perhaps people originally thought that Pigs were dirty because they are often covered in mud after wallowing in puddles.
We know a great deal better than that now.

Far from them being filthy, they are being brilliant.
They are doing something that we humans have learned from them and copy for ourselves. When the weather gets above about 20 degrees, pigs start to get really hot. middlewhiteprofileBecause they haven’t got many pores that allow their skin to breathe or glands to produce cooling drops sweat and because they can’t pant to cool down, they use mud as a cooling, sun cream and moisturiser to protect their skin from getting burned and dried out. If they haven’t got enough mud the farm workers will put sun lotion on them as a substitute.

Pigs are super clever creatures some researchers have done some investigations and found that they are more intelligent than dogs, primates and even very young children. They learn to do tricks and tasks really quickly especially if you offer them food treats as a reward.

Not surprisingly they enjoy playing for its own sake, just like humans do, they like toys and can learn simple computer games, such as Pacman.
They have incredible memories and can recognise and remember faces and objects for years and years.
They enjoy listening to music too.

Another myth about them is that they are lazy, but given the opportunity, a farmyard pig can run at up to 11 miles an hour and a wild pig can get up a speed of about 15 miles an hour.
We can learn a lot about how a pig is feeling from its tail.
if their tails are curly and jaunty, the pig is feeling very happy, like a piggy smile. But if their tails are lank and straight and dangly then the pig is worried or unhappy or poorly.

Their squeal can be as loud as 115 decibels which is louder than a supersonic aeroplane! They use their voices all the time to chat to one another. They have at least 20 sounds that they use to communicate.

Newborn piglets recognise their mum’s voice when they are as young as two weeks old, probably because their mothers ‘sing’ to them while they are suckling. Each piglet has its own special teat which it uses every single time they feed from mum, so they are always in the same order when they eat.
All through their lives they are very sociable animals and if they are able to they will snuggle up together to sleep tummy to tummy, snout to snout. They dream as well, just like we do.

Their genetic make up is very similar to humans.


Pigs love to eat lots of different things, but please don’t try to feed them by hand.
They won’t mean to nibble you, but they have 44 big strong teeth and very weak eyesight, so sometimes they make mistakes and can nibble fingers.
Oh and don’t feed them onions. They don’t care for them at all.