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The species of the group, of which the Llama forms[183] the type, have been involved by the imperfect descriptions of naturalists in almost inextricable confusion. No less than five have been admitted; but the variations of colour and of size, and the degree of length and fineness of the wool, differences rather commercial than natural, afford almost the only positive distinctions that have yet been laid down between them; and when we consider that some of them have been for ages in a state of domestication, it will readily be allowed that such characters as these are, to say the least, trivial and uncertain. Our animals, which are nearly four feet in height at the shoulder, and somewhat more than five feet to the top of the head, have the neck, the back, the sides, and the tail, which is rather short, covered with a beautiful coat of long, bright brown, woolly hair. The long and pointed ears, and the small and attenuated head, on which the hair is short, close, and even, are of a grayish mouse-colour; the outside of the legs is of the same colour with the sides of the body; and their inside, as also the under part of the body and the throat, pure white. The hair on the limbs is short and smooth. In these respects they offer but little to distinguish them from any of the animals which have been exhibited in this country under the various names of Llamas, Pacos, and Guanacos. There is, however, at present in the Garden of the Zoological Society, an animal, which besides being of larger size, covered with longer and coarser wool, and entirely white (which latter circumstance may be purely accidental), differs remarkably in the form of the forehead, which in it is perfectly flat, while in our animals it rises in a strong curve. This character, it is probable, affords a permanent ground of[184] distinction, although we venture not at present to speak decidedly respecting it.

In their natural habits the numerous species of which this group is composed approach very closely to the Deer; there is, however, considerable variety in their mode of life. They inhabit almost every description of country; the sandy desert, the open plain, the thicket, the forest, the mountain, and the precipice, being, each in its turn, the favourite haunt of the different races; but, with the exception of a few species, they do not advance much beyond the limits of the tropics. The smaller ones usually prefer a solitary life, but the larger, for the most part, congregate together in herds, which are generally few in number. In their manners they exhibit much of that cautious vigilance and easily startled timidity, combined with a certain degree of occasional boldness and not a little curiosity, which are the natural consequences of their wild and unrestricted habits, of their trivial means of defence against the[193] numerous enemies to whose attacks they are exposed, and of the unequalled fleetness of their speed. In some this latter quality consists of a continued and uniform gallop, which in others is interrupted at every third or fourth stroke by a long and generally a lofty bound, producing a beautiful effect by its constant and rapid recurrence.

Aquila Chrysaetos. Sav.