Born in January 1996, Dalai (USA) is a 27-year-old with deep brown eyes and a quiet, happy life in a ranch in Albuquerque. He is old enough to get a job, break records and buy a house.

The catch?

Dalai is no normal 27-year-old - he's a llama! 

A loved, senior llama that, shortly after his 27th birthday, has been crowned as the oldest living llama in human care. He's Officially Amazing! 

Thanks to a veterinarian statement it was possible to confirm that Dalai is at least 27 years and 1 day old, crowning him as the oldest of his species and surpassing his predecessor, Washington-born llama Ripper, by 108 days.

But that's not all: Dalai is also the oldest llama in captivity ever!

The average age for a llama is 20 years, meaning Dalai has exceeded all expectations!

Also known as “DM Tommy Tune”, immediately lovable thanks to his big, kind eyes and fluffy fur, this beautiful chocolate-brown llama joined Andrew Thomas and Jill “Kee” Straits when he was already 14, in 2007. 

Before finding his forever home with the Straits and becoming the oldest living llama in captivity, Dalai used to live in the Dorsey Mansion Ranch in Raton, New Mexico, USA.

Dalai’s previous family adopted him for their children, including him in projects for the US-based youth organization network 4-H.

Dalai in the sun

4-H - which stands for “Head, Heart, Hands and Health” - reaches kids all through the United States (both in urban and rural areas) to empower and direct them, with the aim of "engaging youth to reach their fullest potential while advancing the field of youth development".

However, after the children of Dalai’s original owners grew up and went to college, the llama was left unattended. 

Thankfully, in the Straits household, he found a loving family that would see to all his needs!

He soon became the trusted playmate of Thomas and Jill's daughter, Samibah “Sami” Straits. Thanks to his sweet disposition, Dalai grew to be a true companion in her adventures around the farm and in the nearby mountains. 

“Our daughter used to ride him when she was small and now helps to halter and care for him when he needs fly spray or eye drops.”

Sami on Dalai's back

Sami grew up riding on Dalai’s back around the Sandia Mountains, her parents recall. “Dalai has always been surefooted navigating mountainous terrain,” Thomas says.

“He was so proud when he put on the saddle,” Sami adds.

However, together with his new family, Dalai also met his new best friend: Gelato.

“Dalai had a companion llama who passed away at age 20 many years ago. Since then, he hangs out with his best friend, a Nigerian dwarf goat named Gelato.”

Dalai and Gelato are dedicated partners in crime, and they always spend time together. They even sleep side by side every night, Jill explains, and Gelato will cry if Dalai is not close by.

Gelato and Dalai out on a hike together

Thanks to his friendly temperament and love for human interaction, Dalai Llama is the hero of all the children that visit the Straits' ranch: far from being a grumpy ol’ llama who prefers solitude and tranquillity, Dalai is still playful despite his age. 

He loves company, and enjoys giving rides to children. 

Even more amazingly, Dalai seems to be no stranger to stardom: this no-drama (but 100% llama) star has been the protagonist of several local parades already. He also took part in events for 4-H, where Sami takes an active part in youth projects just like Dalai’s old owners.

“He still leaps in the air with joy when we bring him a bucket of mashed alfalfa,” the Straits report, full of pride and love for their beloved pet. “He loves to smell your hair when it is freshly washed.”

However, they warn, don’t try to drag Dalai to the veterinarian against his will: he’ll surely put up a fight, becoming “a big spitter”.

He can be a fierce opponent, so it’s best not to throw off his groove!

Dalai and a plush goat

As befitting to a remarkable milestone, Dalai Llama's 27th birthday was a huge celebration.

He wore a lovely hat and plenty of festive pom-poms while he played with Gelato and fellow llama Dali. 

Meanwhile, the Straits celebrated him with some family friends, cutting a huge chocolate cake in honour of their beloved llama (the cake was reserved for Dalai’s special human guests, though, while he dined on extra-delicious alfalfa).

Once Dalai Llama's owners realised he was already the same age as the previous record-holder, they started rewarding him with extra mush and senior equine feed. 

Dalai's health is solid, as is his appetite, and we are sure that he greatly enjoys the extra attention and food.

"It was not our decision to break the record, but our llama's decision to keep on bucking every morning when the alfalfa pail comes around."

Sami Kee and Dalai laughing

Before Dalai snatched the two record titles, the previous oldest living llama in captivity was Ramadan's Arapahoe Gold aka 'Rapper'. 

Rapper was born in Olympia, Washington, in 1994, and was aged 26 years and 258 days old when his record was verified in 2020. 

Dalai also surpassed the record set by Canada-born Rainbow, the oldest llama in captivity ever.

Born in June 1995, her microchip information confirmed that Rainbow had reached the respectable age of 26 years 328 days old when she sadly passed away on 15 May, 2022. 

Congrats on being (twice) officially llamazing, Dalai!

Dalai and Gelato playing

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