Referring to some Jaredite animals, the same animals that he would have known in his lifetime, Moroni wrote: “And also all manner of cattle, of oxen, and cows, and of sheep, and of swine, and of goats, and also many other kinds of animals which were useful for the food of man. And they also had horses, and asses, and there were elephants and cureloms and cumoms; all of which were useful unto man, and more especially the elephants and cureloms and cumoms” (Ether 9:19).”
Note that the first set of animals were for “food,” but the second were “useful,” and listed several beasts of burden, of which the curelom and cumom were as useful as the elephant, and more useful than the horse and donkey.
Thus, we can rule out such theorists and apologetics suggestion that these two unknown animals (unknown by name to Joseph Smith in 1830 New England) were the sloth or tapir, neither animal being of benefit to man other than for food. It also rules out the idea of the American buffalo (or bison) which animal had many consumer uses to the American Indian, but not as a domesticated beast of burden, and the same is true of the Big Horn Sheep, as some Heartland theorists want to claim were these unknown animals.
We need to keep in mind that the curelom and cumom, on a par with the elephant in usage and benefit to the Jaredites and later Nephites, would be based not solely on food, but also on utilitarian purposes, i.e., as a beast of burden or draught animal that carries or pulls loads, and trained to perform tasks for humans. Such domesticated service and draft animals perform specific tasks, such as hauling, herding, carrying loads and laboring for man. The more versatile the animal, the more benefit the animal has in man’s world and the more tasks it can perform.
The Llama is a versatile animal of service and can draw a wagon, carry burdens, is friendly and docile, and be ridden among other things, and its wool is harvested for clothing, rugs, drapes, etc., and in death provides food, and much like the buffalo, daily needs
First of all, there are no such two animals in any of the other so-called Land of Promise locations that theorists have been promoting for decades. While most theorists have suggested some animal or another, they are not beasts of burden that have great value to early man in assisting him to build, clear, or work his land and home.
The only two such animals in the Western Hemisphere are found in South America, among the Andes area of Peru, Ecuador, western Bolivia and northern Chile. These two animals are known today as the Llama and Alpaca, two names and animals unknown in North America during Joseph Smith’s time and for more than a hundred years after the publication of the Book of Mormon, though today they are quite common in certain locations.
We also know today that these animals are part of camel family, or more precisely, they are camelids that are recognized in South America—two wild and two domesticated. The two wild forms, the larger guanaco (Lama guanicoe) and the daintier vicuña (Vicugna vicugna) diverged from a common ancestor at some point in the far distant past, and an event unrelated to domestication.
Left: the wild guanaco; Right: the wild vicuña
Left: the domesticated alpaca; Right; the domesticated Llama
The earliest evidence for domestication of both llama and alpaca comes from archaeological sites located in the Puna region of the Peruvian Andes, at between 13,000-14,500 feet above sea level. At Telarmachay Rockshelter, located 105 miles northeast of Lima, faunal evidence from the long-occupied site traces an evolution of human subsistence related to the camelids.
The first hunters in the region lived on generalized hunting of guanaco, vicuña and the South American huemul deer. Later, the control of domesticated alpacas and llamas developed into a predominant herding economy based on llama and alpaca as found at Telarmachay, and evidence for domestication of llama and alpaca accepted by scholars include changes in dental morphology, the presence of fetal and neonatal camelids in archaeological deposits, and an increasing reliance on camelids indicated by the frequency of camelid remains in deposits. Wheeler has estimated that by 3800 years ago, the people at Telarmachay based 73% of their diet on camelids--which would have been during the early Jaredite period.
The llama is the larger of the domestic camelids and resembles the guanaco in almost all aspects of behavior and morphology. Llama is the Quechua term for L. glama, which is known as “qawra” by Aymara speakers. Domesticated from the guanaco in the Peruvian Andes dates back to a similar early period, while the llama moved into lower elevations. Long before the time of the Inca, vast Llama herds were roaming the northern coasts of Peru and Ecuador. During Inca times, they were used to move their imperial pack trains into southern Colombia and central Chile.
Through much of their existence, man used llamas as beasts of burden, as well as for meat, hides, and fuel from their dung. They have upright ears and a leaner body with less wooly legs than the alpacas, and according to Spanish records, the Inca had a hereditary caste of herding specialists, with an emphasis placed on breeding animals with specific colored pelts for sacrificing to different deities. Information on flock size and colors are believed to have been kept using the quipu. Herds were both individually-owned and communal.
The Alpaca is considerably smaller than the llama, and it most resembles the vicuña in aspects of social organization and appearance, with archaeological evidence suggesting that, like llamas, alpacas were domesticated first in the Puna highlands of central Peru, but eventually came down to lower elevations. Their smaller size rules out their use as beasts of burden, but they have a fine fleece that is prized throughout the world today for its delicate, light-weight, cashmere-like wool that comes in a range of colors from white, through fawn, brown, gray, and black.
Archaeological evidence suggests that both llamas and alpacas were part of the daily routine and rites in Chiribaya culture such as El Yaral, where naturally mummified animals were found buried beneath house floors. Quechua and Aymara-speaking herders today subdivide their herds into llama-like (llamawari or waritu) and alpaca-like (pacowari or wayki) animals, depending on physical appearance. Cross breeding of the two has attempted to increase the amount of alpaca fiber, which is of a higher quality; and the fleece weight (a llama trend). However, their main value to the early Peruvians was in their versatile service in numerous ways, as well as their ability to guard other herds and flocks (like a guard dog), as well as provide numerous daily needs, such as hides, clothing, fibers, meat, and numerous beast of burden work.
Nowhere in the Americas are there two other animals like the Llama and the Alpaca that provide so much benefit to man. No wonder Moroni made such a remark.