Sister and brother take top honors at Routt County Fair’s llama show |

Sister and brother take top honors at Routt County Fair’s llama show

Hailee and Jace Smith continue the family tradition of raising llamas in Hayden started by their late aunt Ann Copeland. The pair won top honors in the llama show at the Routt County Fair on Friday.
Frances Hohl

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct the owners of Buck Mountain Llama Ranch near Clark.

HAYDEN — Llamas get a bad rap for spitting — kind of like tobacco chewers. So although 11-year-old Grace George can easily handle a 1,600-pound steer at the Routt County Fair, she approached a cute, buck-toothed llama a little shyly.

Llama owners say the whole spitting reputation is nonsense. Kind of.

“I’ve been with llamas since I was 3-years-old and never been spit at,” said Hailee Smith, whose llama Calico won grand champion for both showmanship and trailing on Friday morning at the fairgrounds in Hayden.

“They only spit at each other when they’re going for grain or fighting over females,” Hailee said.

“Or if there’s predators, around,” added little brother Jace Smith, whose llama Jake won grand reserve for showmanship and trailing.

The siblings picked up the llama habit from their late aunt Ann Copeland of Pyramid Ranch Llamas.

Hailee, 16, basically grew up alongside Calico, who is 15 years old, and it’s easy to see how smoothly the two work together inside the fairgrounds arena. After winning, she allowed children to take Calico through the obstacle course. He was as gentle as a … ahem … lamb.

The Smith family takes their animals out on wilderness treks where llamas can carry up to 80 pounds. They’ve also rented them out to the U.S. Forest Service and as companion animals for sheep herds and other businesses.

“They’re easy keepers,” Hailee said. “They’re like horses. Just put them in the pasture, feed them hay and water and you can give them a treat of grain.”

Routt County Fair superintendent Nancy White said llamas make the best pack animals for the wilderness.

“They’re not hard on the environment like horses,” said White, who owns Buck Mountain Llama Ranch near Clark.

The Smiths recently had an addition to their llama family. A baby llama was born on Mother’s Day, bringing their tight-knit herd to 10.

“They’re pregnant for 11 months,” Hailee said. “It was a long wait but it was exciting.”

The Routt County Fair continues through Sunday. For a complete schedule, click here.

Frances Hohl is a contributing writer for the Steamboat Pilot & Today.

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