How Do Llamas Sleep?

Like almost all mammals, llamas need to spend some time each day hibernating to function properly. And just like their relatives, the alpacas, llamas sleep by laying down on their stomachs or their sides. They also prefer to take naps during the day. Some llamas will even doze on their backs.

how do llamas sleep

Llamas will fold their front legs beneath their chest, or even extend them in front if they feel like it. This folded position is also called the kush. Some llamas will sleep in a lateral position, on their side.

According to zookeepers from Hellabrunn Zoo from Germany, llamas also love to sleep on their side, especially outside in the sun.

During the winter months, when there’s very little sun, llamas like to make the most of it. That’s why you can see several llamas lying on their sides next to one another and dozing. However, this sleeping behavior only lasts 15-20 minutes. Guess llamas are also fans of power naps.

Sleep in animals is a behavioral and physiological state that is characterized by altered consciousness and reduced responsiveness to external stimulation. Not getting enough sleep can have a host of negative health effects for the animal and even lead to death.

Now that we simply explained “how do llamas sleep”, let’s dive deeper and see how llamas get into their sleeping position, how much sleep they need, when and where do llamas sleep.

How Do Llamas Get Into Sleeping Position?

Most of the time, llamas will sleep in a kneeling chest position with their legs under their body. This “kushed” position is also called sternal recumbency. During deep sleep, you can clearly see their necks stretched out and their heads resting on the ground.

To get into a sleeping position, a llama will first bend its front legs and rest on its knees. Then, it will fold its back legs and rest on its sternum. When they sit in this position, their folded legs are nice and warmly tucked underneath their chest. Finally, a llama will place its neck and head on the ground and get into its REM sleeping cycle.

llama sleeping on the ground
Llama sleeping position

Llamas might even lay on their side to sleep or rest. In this position, they will put one side of their body on the ground and then extend their legs. This lateral recumbency is also a normal position for a llama to sleep, nap, or lay in the sun during the day.

There have been instances of llamas sleeping on their back. They would drop on their side, then roll over to get on their back and then bend their legs. This looks like you rotated a llama sleeping in a kushed position.

Here’s a video of a llama sleeping on its back.

South American camelids have strong and thick calluses on their sternum; this allows them to stay for hours or days in this leg-folded position without compromising the circulation of the limbs.

Llama owners sometimes look at the way a llama sleeps to diagnose a disease in the animal.

Do Llamas Sleep Standing Up?

Sleeping on their feet is not what most animals do. Horses, zebras, and elephants, however, do sleep standing up. Cows can too, but mostly choose to lie down. Even camels sometimes sleep on their feet.

To get the most rest, llamas will not sleep standing up. They will lie down on their stomach or sprawl on the ground. This is the best way for them to relax enough and get adequate rest. Some llama might doze off while standing on its feet, but this way it can’t enter a deep state of sleep.

llama laying on its back
Llama laying on its back

The major advantage of resting while standing up is that a llama might react faster to an approaching predator and try to run away from it. It would not need to spend a lot of time getting up from the ground and then attempting to outrun its enemy. 

We have an article comparing the top running speed of llama and their main predator, the coyote. You can read it HERE.

To alert others about the imminent danger, llamas will also emit a strong sound called the hum.

Read more: Do llamas prey on other animals?

Do Llamas Sleep With Their Eyes Open?

There is actually a long list of animals that sleep with their eyes open. The Amazonian manatees, South American sea lions, beluga whales, bottlenose dolphins, fruit bats, blackbirds, penguins, mallard ducks, crocodiles, and others.

Llamas do not sleep with their eyes open; they close all three of their eyelids when they fall asleep. This protects their eyes from insects, dirt, and other particles that might damage them, but also from drying out overnight. When resting and ruminating, their eyes are open or half-closed.

llama laying on its side
Llama resting on its side

Do Llamas Sleep At Night?

Llamas are diurnal animals that are most active during the day and sleep during the night. Llamas are most active during the daytime, usually from 6 am until 6 pm. They are not nocturnal animals. 

In case you didn’t know the difference between diurnal and nocturnal animals, here it is:

  • Diurnal animals are active during the daytime and sleep during nighttime. 
  • Nocturnal, on the other hand, means that the animals are most active during the night. 

Llamas will also take brief naps during the day. If it is too hot outside, they will look for a shade to nap in. 

How Much Do Llamas Sleep?

According to Denver Zoo veterinarians, llamas sleep a “normal” amount of time for a diurnal species: around 8-10 hours a night plus some naps during the day, given the opportunity to rest.

One study on llama habits showed that llamas will mostly sleep from 6 pm to 6 am. Around 6 am they will move, browse and graze, and later during the day nap. Around 6 pm they will become less active and go to sleep.

They examined llamas at the Andean High Plateau (2.7 miles above sea level (4.400 m)) and noticed that llamas were most active throughout the day during March. During September, the wet season, llamas moved a lot less and spent a bit more time sleeping. 

Natural daylight during the study ranged from 10 to 12 h per day, and animals were taken to and from the grazing ground at around the same time (7 am to 5 pm). After that, the animals were taken back to the camp. This explains the consistent sleeping schedule in llamas.

Compared to camels who sleep 6-7 hours a day, llamas require a few more hours of sleep.

Where Do Llamas Sleep?

Llamas generally prefer to sleep in the open in the wild, rather than inside a barn or a shed. Despite their endurance and toughness, llamas still require shelter from the sun, wind, and rain. If the weather is continually wet, windy, and the temperature is low, llamas require front-open dry shelters to sleep and rest properly.

At a minimum, llamas should have access to windbreaks and sun protection to “hit the sack” properly. 

Llamas require natural or man-made shelter with sufficient ventilation and space to allow them to find relief from extreme cold, heat, humidity, precipitation, wind chill, waterlogged ground, or standing water during periods of wet weather. When temperatures reach extremes, they require a heating source or cooling measures.

What Do Llamas Sleep On?

If the weather is nice, a llama will sleep anywhere as long as it feels safe. It will sleep on the grass or ground, as long as it is not wet. When there’s high precipitation, a llama will sleep on a dry floor in their shed/barn.

When Do Llamas Sleep?

In a day with 10-12 hours of natural daylight, llamas will sleep some 8-12 hours, usually from 06:00 in the afternoon, until 06:00 in the morning. This includes several naps during the day.

Do Llamas Hibernate?

Despite temperatures in the Andes often dropping below zero, llamas do not hibernate. They remain active during the freezing parts of the year. They have to thank their warm wool for that.

Final Thoughts

There you have it! A question “how do llamas sleep”, explained in depth.

Llamas usually sleep from 8 to 10 hours a night. They sleep laying on their stomach or their side, with their legs tucked in to keep them warm. Llamas do not sleep standing up and are most active during the day; they sleep during the night, on the ground, or in their shed, depending on the weather. 

When it comes to llama’s stomach, did you know that they have a stomach that consists of three chambers? Read more about it HERE.


References

[1] Fowler, Murray. Medicine and surgery of camelids. John Wiley & Sons, 2011.

[2] Riek, Alexander, et al. “Energy expenditure and body temperature variations in llamas living in the High Andes of Peru.” Scientific reports 9.1 (2019): 1-11.

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