ROME TOWNSHIP — There was no question Duke knew he was special. He stood in the fairgrounds lawn with all the authority and presence of that other — lesser — Duke who used to be in the movies.
Now John Wayne may have outsized this Duke. But he couldn’t outclass him or even be that cute and cuddly. That’s because this Duke is a fully-grown llama. He was one of many who descended upon the Lawrence County Fairgrounds Saturday for competition.
“They’re very gentle,” said llama owner Amoret Arthur who with her husband Larry, brought llamas onto their farm in Franklin Furnace 12 years ago. “They’re a very proud animal.”
And they can be a great companion for children, the couple says.
“Kids can do everything with them,” she said.
And they can be trained to accept a halter and follow within a half-hour to an hour.
Diana Lewis has had llamas on her farm, Spring Rock Farm in Proctorville, for the past 12 years. They came after her children were grown and no longer interested in the horses they used to ride.
“My husband saw a llama farm in Virginia. He stopped and said this is something you can do,” Lewis recalled. “The first one was not friendly and I was a little bit scared. But I took my time and they are a willing-to-please type of animal.”
Lewis will take her animals to various shows across the country where they are judged on their confirmation and their ability to be led through an obstacle course.
Judges look for a level back and a smooth walk when judging confirmation, she said.
The obstacle course simulates situations these pack animals might encounter on a trail.
While there is a national llama competition each year in Nebraska, Lewis likes to bring her animals out to shows to get people to learn more about them.
Llamas are often used in pet therapy situations in such venues as nursing homes and also may be used to guard a herd of sheep, especially when aggressive coyotes need to chased away.
Grooming consists of a hose, a bottle of Woolite, and a mini leaf blower to give the animals hair a thorough blow dry.
Then that hair once clean and dry can be shaved and turned into rugs, sweaters, scarves or craft items.
Paul Harris of Wheelersburg finds simply watching these stately creatures a pleasure.
“They are very relaxing,” he said. “You can sit on the deck and look out at them in the field. They’re very curious and smart.”
But Lewis may have the best answer of all for taking on these South American beasts to her home.
“They eat a lot less than a horse,” she said.