Llamas, a camelid native to the Andes of South America, are being used to guard sheep in the Swiss Alps, breaking the stranglehold that dogs have had for generations on the job of guarding flocks from wolves and other predators.

The alert and curious nature of llamas, which are able to move easily across rough terrain, gives them an advantage in protecting flocks of sheep, farmers said.

Twenty llamas are being used in a test project by the Swiss Association for the Development of Agriculture and Rural Areas, or Agridea, to guard some flocks.

Agridea came up with the project after receiving positive feedback on llamas from the United States and Australia, where the animals have used for some time to protect sheep from coyotes and feral dogs.

"We decided to experiment with llamas on small pastures, where pressure from wolves, although it exists, is minor. In addition, they are animals with low maintenance costs," Daniel Mettler, who is managing Agridea's two llama pilot projects in Switzerland, told Efe.

Llamas, among other advantages, require little water and are quite strong, qualities that made them popular beasts of burden in the Andean region. EFE