The guanaco (Lama guanicoe) is a camelid animal native to South America that stands between 107 and 122 centimeters (3.5 and 4 feet) at the shoulder and weighs about 90 kg (200 lb). The colour varies very little, ranging from a light brown to dark cinnamon and shading to white underneath. Guanacos have grey faces and small straight ears. They are extremely striking with their large, alert brown eyes, streamlined form, and energetic pace. The name Guanaco comes from the South American language Quechua word "huanaco." Young guanacos are called chulengo(s).
Guanaco fiber is particularly prized for its soft warm feel and is found in luxury fabric. The guanaco's soft wool is second only to that of the vicuna. The pelts, particularly from the calves, are sometimes used as a substitute for red fox pelts because its texture is difficult to differentiate. Like their domestic descendant, the llama, the guanaco is double coated with a coarse guard hair and soft undercoat, which is approximately 16-18 in diameter and is finer than the best cashmere.
Population and distribution
The guanaco is native to the arid, mountainous regions of South America. Guanaco are found in the altiplano of Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Chile and Argentina. In Chile and Argentina they are more numerous in Patagonian regions, in places like the Torres del Paine National Park, and Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego. In these areas they have more robust populations, since there are limitations on grazing competition from livestock. Bolivian Indians have been known to raise guanacos to help them regain their population stability.[clarification needed] A guanaco typical life span is 20 to 25 years. Current estimates place their numbers at 400,000 to 600,000.
Guanacos live in herds composed of females, their young and a dominant male. Bachelor males form a separate herd. While female groups tend to remain small, often containing no more than ten adults, bachelor herds may have as many as 50 animals present. When they feel threatened, guanacos alert the herd to flee with a high-pitched bleating call. The male will usually run behind the herd in order to defend them. They can run with a speed of 56 km (35 mi) per hour, often over steep and rocky terrain. They are also excellent swimmers. The Guanacos have an unusual method of survival; licking all the nutrients and dew from desert cacti.  Guanacos are one of the largest wild mammal species found in South America (along with the manatee, the tapir, and the jaguar). They have only one natural predator, the mountain lion or puma. Guanacos will often spit when threatened. To protect its neck from harm, the guanaco has developed thicker skin on its neck, a trait still found in its domestic counterparts, the llama and alpaca, and its wild cousin, the vicuna. Bolivians use the necks of these animals to make shoes, flattening and pounding the skin to be used for the soles.
Mating season occurs between November and February, during which males often fight violently to establish dominance and breeding rights. Eleven months later, a single calf, or chulengo, is born. Calves are able to walk immediately after birth. Male calves are chased off from the herd at approximately one year of age.