Matthew Parris, the MP-turned-journalist/political commentator, keeps pet llamas at his home in Derbyshire. He spoke to Octavia Pollock.
Even in Derbyshire, the llamas belonging to journalist, author and political commentator Matthew Parris retain the ways of their native Andes. ‘They always give birth at sunrise,’ he explains. ‘It’s very cold in the mountains, so that gives them the best chance of warmth and sunshine.’
One wintry morning this year, Mr Parris and his partner, Julian Glover, went out at 7am to find a newborn in the snow. ‘The others were standing around worriedly wondering what to do; if they don’t get up and feed immediately, they won’t make it. Julian is very good with animals, so he picked the baby up and carried her into the barn.’
Thus Lynn joined her mother Ann, Craig and Vera, all of whom are named after the first person to see them. More salubrious weather greeted the boisterous John, who was unexpectedly born to Vera in July.
Mr Parris has had llamas for some 25 years. ‘I first saw them in America, but it turned out they’d been here for years — Queen Victoria had them at Windsor.
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‘They live outside, because they prefer to be able to see in all directions. They’re very stoical, but they don’t like driving rain. The wool is high-quality insulation, so –20˚ is fine, but they don’t have a lot of lanolin like sheep, so they get soaked.’
With more coarse hair than their alpaca cousins, the llamas get groomed, especially if they’re filling in for camels in the local Nativity play, but ‘they do tend to have a bit of a Rastafarian look’.
Remarkably, llamas can ‘jump like hell’, but prefer to stay in their field, close to the action. ‘They’re interested in everything humans are doing. We’ll go and see them and they’ll come over as if they want to have a conversation. They never actually do, but they look as if they will.’
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