Saturday, August 16, 2014

Uncovering the Lama Paca

Responding to a recent article about the llama and alpaca, a friend wrote in that the names are listed in Webster’s 1828 dictionary, which led to the following response about the American camelids.
In the Index generum mammalium (U.S. Department of Agriculture, Government Printing Office, 1904), which is a 984-page list of the genera and families of mammals, by Theodore Sherman Palmer, the first mention of what we now call the Llama is given by Frisch in 1775, in which he refers to the American camelid as “Das Amerikansche Kameel.” However, this list was not begun until 1884, according to the preface dated 1902, by C. Hart Merriam, Chief of Division of Biological Survey, under whose direction the Index was prepared.
    Many names within the list, “which now pass current were refused recognition by some of the older zoologists,” specifically “based on certain principles of nomenclature laid down by Carl Linnaeus  (Carl von Linní) in 1751 in Sweden in his Philosophia Botanica” as well as by H. B. C. Illiger. And more than 3,000 names were provided by the Zoological Society of London from works not available in the United States. In addition, many names came from Queensland Museum in Brisbane, the Natural History Museum in London, the British Museum, and also from sources in Berlin and Paris.
In addition, such works as (left) Sir David Brewster’s Edinburg Encyclopedia, which was printed in the U.S. in 1832. Brewster, who was a prominent figure in the popularization of science, also was the editor of the 18-volume Edinburg Encyclopedia, which was published in competition with the Encyclopedia Britannica, in which Brewster wrote most of the articles. By the time the Encyclopedia Britannica made its way to America, a former Edinburgh resident, Thomas Dobson, was in the U.S. and took offense at the slanted British history in the Britannica.
The 18-volume third edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica, was first started in 1788 and actually finished in 1797, which was then pirated by Dobson, who dropped the term Britannica from the title, the dedication to King George III was replaced with a dedication to the readers, and sundry facts about American history, geography and peoples were added, as well as an out-of-date map of North America corrected. Dobson printed the work in the U.S. in 1798 (title page left), and the first two sets were immediately purchased by George Washington, and also Thomas Jefferson, Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton obtained copies. The first 2000 copies were sold out by 1818. By 1829, after Dobson’s death, the work was superseded by the first edition of Encyclopedia Americana (1819-1833).
Left: The Zoological Society Proceedings, including Illustrations, was printed in London, Paris and Leipzig, Germany—first published in 1831; Right: The Natural History Museum (British Museum (Natural History before 1992), London, was established in 1881
    All of this is meant to show that what might have been common in Europe in the early 1800s, in such areas as the Proceedings of the Zoological Society in London, later in the Proceedings of the Royal Society (London), or in the Natural History Museum or other such areas in Europe, was not known in the U.S., especially outside scientific biological circles, and even more especially in a back area where Joseph Smith lived and translated the plates into the Book of Mormon.
    As an example, the first mention of the animal classification Lama paca, more accurately listed scientifically as L. paca, though classified as early as 1775 in Europe, did not appear in print until 1831 in Europe (London), and 1904 in the United States. And the classification in 1775 was “Das Amerikansche Kameel” the Camelus lacma Cuvier; although Carl Linnaeus in 1758 had named it "Camelus peruvianus Glama dictus" (llama) and Camelus pacos "Camelus peruvianus laniger Pacos dictus" (alpaca), placing them together in a single genus with the Old World dromedary and bactrian camels, Camelus dromedarius and Camelus bactrianusTiedem listed it under Lama in 1808, and Abhand as llacma in 1811; Griff as Auchenia huanaca in 1827; Gray as Llama guanacus in 1872; and Thomas listed it as Lama glama in 1891, as well as Lama pacos; and lama vicugna.
    The two remaining New World species, the wild guanaco and vicuña, were subsequently designated Camelus guanicoe by Miller in 1776 and Camelus vicuña by Molina in 1782.  As early as 1775, Frisch proposed that the four New World species be placed in the genus Lama, but this work was not accepted by the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature and authorship of Lama was credited to Cuvier in 1800.
Some claim that the first mention of llamas is in Voltair’s Candide; however, he writes in French about “red sheep,” which a commentator wrote in the footnotes that he believes that Voltaire actually meant llamas, since part of the story takes place in Argentina, South America (and also in fictional El Dorado). However, if Voltaire, who wrote Candide in Switzerland thought of llamas, it would be interesting in 1758 how he came across that knowledge. In fact, so unknown were the llamas in 1918, that the writer of the footnote had to explain what a llama was, and explain that it was not a draft animal as Voltaire described his red sheep (though llamas carry loads, they are limited to ¼ of their weight, i.e., a 400 pound lama will carry 100 pounds, and if you load him more than that, they refuse to move; yet, even so, Voltair’s work was written in 1759 and published in Geneva, Amsterdam, London and Paris, but the comment not added until 1918.
    Going even further, it is well known thatthere were no camelids in North America until the importation of llamas as zoo exhibits into the United States in the late 1800s—long after Joseph Smith’s time. Even then, the number of imports were small and generally included guanacos or guanaco hybrids. Alpaca and vicuña importations were negligible, and any traces of these species in the United States at that time were thought to have arrived via hybrids.
    While the first llamas were introduced into Australia in 1865, but made no headway and the entire herd died out, the Bronx Zoo is credited with having one of the earliest llamas in the U.S., but the zoo didn’t open until November 8, 1899. Probably, the most significant importations was made in the early 1900s by William Randolph Hearst to populate his San Simeon estate with these animals as well as a number of species, such as lions, bears, gazelles, zebras, and other exotic animals.
J. Randolph Heart’s “castle” at San Simeon in central California
    Reported to have numbered twelve animals, Hearst's importation is thought to have been the largest to that date. In 1930, importation was cut off by a "Foot and Mouth Disease" embargo on all South American hoofed stock. Thereafter, the only stock legally entering the United States came from Canada where the llama population was equally limited. Some unauthorized entries reportedly took place after 1930 but again were small.
     As for the Alpaca, they were not imported into the United States until 1983. And as for names, the name Llama was not known in 1830 to either the public or Noah Webster, as shown through its not being listed in his 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language, under its Spanish (llama) or local Quechua (llama) name. In fact, lama is more appropriately referred to scientifically as L. glama, for Lama glama—listed in Webster’s 1828 dictionary under “lama,” with its main definition as “The sovereign pontiff, or rather the god of the Asiatic Tartars.” Thus, the animal, known today as llama, was listed as a secondary meaning of less import in 1828 than a god of the Asian (Crimean) Tartars.
    And the name “alpaca” is not only missing from the 1828 dictionary, under either the Spanish (alpaca) or the local Aymara (allpaca), it is also not found under either of its scientific names, Vicugna pacos, or either of its breeds: Suri alpaca or Huacaya alpaca. It is, however, found under alpagna, with the correct spelling used as Alpag’na, a name unknown today and unassociated with any animal, though “alpagna,” is shown for “an animal of Peru, used as a beast of burden; the Camelus Paco of Linne, and the Pacos of Pennant.” (Pa’co is also found, with the definition “an animal of South America, resembling the camel in shape, but much smaller. It is sometimes called the Peruvian sheep, on account of its long thick hair.” It is interesting that there is no etymology for either Alpagna or Alpag’na—words or names unknown outside Webster’s 1828 dictionary, and where or how he came by them is unknown.
    In fact, as late as 2001, the scientific world thought the “alpaca” was descended from the “llama”  however, DNA shows that it is classified, where it is now listed, as part of (descended from) the Vicugna (vicuña).
Left the Vicuna; Right: the Alapaca
    Consequently, there seems good cause for the Spirit to have acknowledged Joseph Smith’s use of the original Jaredite or Nephite name for these two animals—cureloms and cumoms to avoid all of these early disputes and difficulty with their names that continued for nearly a hundred years after Joseph’s time.


  1. Is this new information? I do not recall all of this in your previous posts on these animals.

  2. No. It is just more technical than we usually post. Sometimes in order to condense information into a posting article, we leave out the more technical data; however, in doing do, it sometimes elicits comments that otherwise would have been answered. The data on this in Webster's 1828 dictionary was never clarified by us to the point it is here, but it caused a reader some questions so we are answering it here.