CULPEPER, VA., NOV. 1 -- "I'm a head and ear person," said Francene Pettyjohn, a cowboy-booted grandmother from Rustburg, Va.
"Well, everybody has their thing. I like banana-shaped ears. And I don't like a great big llama, but I do like a well-muscled one. I like my llamas with nice wool, and a straight back."
Pettyjohn offered her comments at the first International Llama Association Jamboree, held today at Commonwealth Park in Culpeper, about an hour southwest of Washington.
"Here I am, a grandmother, showing llamas -- can you believe it?" asked Pettyjohn, who also raises miniature donkeys, miniature goats and three-toed Australian birds called emus.
"You know what I go for in a llama?" she said. "A real, nice quarter horse type of look."
An estimated 128 llamas, 205 llama owners from across the country and 3,000 spectators and llama lovers participated in the daylong jamboree, which featured competitive llama events, including an obstacle course with llamas wearing packs.
The day was, to borrow a phrase from a llama book, "Wooly, winsome and wonderful." Its offerings included lots of llama-bilia, such as a $79 llama pack frame, a llama wind chime and International Llama Association wineglasses.
The jamboree also was the place to pick up a copy of "Making the Most of your Llama," or to browse through back issues of Llamas magazine (4,000 paid subscribers, said editor Cheryl DalPorto) and read about "Llama Coat Color Inheritance" or the "Berserk Male Syndrome."
This was also an event at which to spot potential llama investments ("Red Cloud," out of "The Professor" and "Wanda"), to discuss training tips and to brush up on little-known llama facts:Popular names for llamas are "Tony Llama," "Dalai Llama" and "Fernando Llama." One California llama backpacking operation calls itself "Como se Llama." (It's pronounced "lama" in the United States, but "yama" in Spanish.) A llama paternity suit was heard recently by Judge Joseph Wapner on television's "The People's Court." Five years ago, there were approximately 3,300 llamas in the United States; today there are more than 11,000, according to the llama association. Almost all of Virginia's 28 llama breeding operations are less than five years old. The llama association reports that membership has more than tripled during the same period, from 282 members in 1982 to 870 now. Most llamas are kept as pets or are used as pack animals. Doe-faced llamas are members of the camel family and were domesticated in the Andean highlands of Peru 4,000 to 5,000 years ago. They can carry 70 to 120 pounds, and they are not ridden, except by children. Llama wool sells for about $30 per pound, compared with about $1 for sheep's wool, llama owners say. Llamas hum. "They go like, 'ummmmm,' " said Sue Rolfing, whose husband Steve Rolfing is president of the Denver-based International Llama Association. Nancy Calhoun, of Cornwall, Conn., answers a 24-hour llama hot line for the Greater Appalachian Llama Association. She is a "herd management consultant." A llama's diet is similar to that of a horse or a cow except that it requires less feed. Llamas eat about four bales of hay per month, but they also like broccoli, orange peel, twigs and other items. Llamas can live in back yards, have been known to fit in station wagons, and can easily be handled by children. They rarely spit at humans, although they can spit six feet at an- other llama. They are curious and aloof. Jan Faiks, a state senator from Alaska, campaigns door to door with her llama. Llama weanling females cost about $8,000, bred females cost between $10,000 and $12,000, and stud-quality males start at $2,500. The record auction price for a female is $80,000; for a male, $85,000.
Patti Haverland, a 22-year-old pre-law student at the University of Wisconsin, went to the jamboree with four llamas, including a black appaloosa male named Diamond Jim. She has been raising llamas for six months.
Army Col. Bob Dinning was also there. When he retires, it will be to his llama breeding farm near Charlottesville. Marc Trubitz was there, too. He owns a tailor rental center franchise in Harrisonburg, Va., and raises great Pyrenees dogs, sheep, mini-donkeys, apples and llamas.
With Trubitz was his 400-pound kissing llama, Buster Brown. "He's terrific," said Trubitz. "He doesn't know he's a llama; he thinks he's a person."
"The East is just ripe for llamas," said Sue Rolfing. "There are so many people with small acreages that will enjoy a maintenance-free companion animal. And there are lots and lots of things you can do with llamas.
"People take them to hospitals and nursing homes. I've had mine in elevators. We take them to schools a lot. People call up and say, 'Hey -- we're studying South America.' People are just fascinated by llamas, and any chance that they have to get close to them, they'll do it."