Llamas liven up north Georgia - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Llamas liven up north Georgia

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Cohutta, GA (WRCB) - Mayor Ron Shinnick of Cohutta, Georgia has been raising llamas for 25 years at Llamas By The Lakes farm. He and his wife raised their children around the animals who don't feel out of place here.

"They fit the character of our community. It's kind of a country community. It's a peaceful, calm, agricultural community, and they just seem like a natural fit," says Shinnick.

They're not the traditional "beasts of burden" like horses or cows, but other families in the area started raising llamas after the Shinnicks began the trend. They've become quite an attraction at times.

They're shown at competitions, similar to the way horses are. You can walk alongside them as they haul gear saddled over their backs, like rangers do in the east Tennessee mountains.

Llamas also can pull cargo behind them.

"I actually train llamas to pull carts and buggies and ride around with llamas," says Shinnick. "I'm kind of the lazy man of the llama world."

His llama, Charlie, won the driving competition at a national show in Nebraska a few years ago.

Llamas are found mostly in South America where they've been domesticated as packing and driving animals for centuries. This became popular in the United States in the 1970s. Shinnick says the highest concentration of them in the southeast is in north Georgia.

"It produces a little income here and there. Helps pay the feed bill and the hay bill," adds Shinnick.

There's no telling how many he's had through the years, but Shinnick says there's always a strong bond between him and the llamas and appreciates their unique personality.

"When I come out to the barn I recognize them and I call them. There's Molly, and there's Holly, and there's Charlie," says Shinnick, naming just a few of the 15 or so he has right now.

Most people's experiences with llamas have been at petting zoos where the animals have been known to spit and be standoffish. Shinnick wants people to know that when raised in a proper environment, llamas are warm and loving creatures.

"They really are something that families can have and can grow up with," says Shinnick. "It can be a great family experience."

His son, Tanner, has filmed a documentary about llamas. It's in the editing stages and is expected to be done in the spring of 2015. Tanner has received calls from a few television networks and film festivals interested in his movie. For more information visit this link.
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