dusty photo

Ranger Dusty


ILR # 55817

male  b. 6-2-1984 ... d. 1.26.2009

Ranger Doug x Star Baby


Ranger Dusty was our primary stud and Gwen’s closest companion; there are no words to describe their deep relationship. Although he lived a long and robustly healthy life, he was gone far too soon.

Dusty was 43.5” at the withers and averaged 290 pounds for most of his life; he was never made available for outside breedings and all his offspring were born at Lost Creek Llamas.

Dusty repeatedly proved himself an incredibly exceptional pack llama on the trail, carrying 120 pounds (payload!) with ease on work crews, and able to pack normal backcountry packing loads (55-90 pounds) for 20-25 miles, day after day — all at his handler’s pace — and he remained as sound and capable at twenty-two as when he was as a youngster. Only a freak injury from a female he was breeding kept him off the trail and out of harness for his last two years.

Dusty’s cooperative and level-headed demeanor made him an enjoyable harness llama and off-lead partner, even when in the presence of open females. Many times onlookers were aghast when they discovered that the “exceptionally well-behaved gelding” they were watching was actually a breeding stud!

Dusty also proved himself worthy in the breeding pen, even though the females we had available in his early years were not of the caliber we would have liked (most of the best conformed and best-dispositioned llamas were hoarded by investment breeders for crossbreeding with woollies up until quite recently). Despite continual criticism of his testicles (which were not level) in the showring, Dusty’s fertility was not only excellent, but exceptional. He produced entirely genetically sound cria, and he improved every female he was bred to with his outstanding old-style disposition, cool and easy-care classic coat with superior consistency of guard hair throughout, and superior biomechanical features (most notably his straight and extremely powerful rear end) to his offspring.

Although none of his sons came up to our tough standards, Dusty’s daughters have been his strength, and his first daughter to enter breeding, Lost Creek Ranger Olallie, showed multiple reproductive and maternal trait improvements over her own mother, a good indicator of the long-term genetic depth and value Dusty’s genes hold for the health and viability of the classic llama gene pool.

Dusty showed for an unprecedented 14 seasons. He earned the ALSA titles of Champion, Performance Champion, and Supreme Champion. He not only was the first llama ever to earn six ALSA Recognition of Merit certificates — in Halter, Obstacle, PR, Pack, Pleasure Driving and Obstacle Driving — but as of his death, he was still the only llama with all six ROM certificates. Dusty was the only llama ever to compete in an open ALSA obstacle competition OFF LEAD! He won the class without a single glitch, astonishing the crowd, and before he and Gwen even returned home, ALSA had banned llamas from being off-lead for ANY reason at all shows. This didn’t stop people from requesting off-lead obstacle demonstrations at various shows after the obstacle classes had been completed. Dusty and Gwen complied for the remainder of his show career.

Dusty topped the ALSA total point standings since 1993, and finished his showing career in 2001 with a lifetime total of 570 points earned, a 95-point margin over the next high-point llama, our own Nubin Sydney. Not only did Dusty have the highest lifetime ALSA total points, but those points were earned in only 41 shows (none of them “double-point” shows and almost all before the higher point scale for large classes went into effect); also, when Dusty started showing, there was only one ALSA sanctioned show in Oregon (there are literally dozens in Ohio alone now) and many shows did not offer full performance slates then, let alone Performance Champion awards; finally, Dusty had to compete with our own super show gelding Nubin Sydney at every show. That puts Dusty’s point total in a different light — no llama today has even come close to his achievements: An unapproachable lifetime 14 points-per-show average ... and, in the 33 total ALSA shows Dusty competed in where Performance Champion awards were tabulated, Dusty walked away with 23 Grands and 8 Reserves!!!

Dusty retired from showing in mid-2000 because he and Gwen abruptly realized it wasn’t fun anymore — the vicious behavior of some competitors who wanted to win without working to earn it, the increasing artificiality of ALSA rules, and boring courses that were “made challenging” by requiring llamas to negotiate many or most of the obstacles backwards finally took its toll. Not all competitors are poorly behaved, but there were enough bad apples that over time, showing became a case of paying money to trade a bad time at some hot stinky city fairgrounds instead of spending that precious time together on the trail breathing in fresh air without unsolicited judgment.

Dusty and Gwen did not participate in “pack trials” because reading the initial rules, it was obvious the only challenge to would be going slow enough to avoid disqualification. Although Dusty was perfectly capable of controlling himself, neither he or Gwen liked to go slow! It was only after Dusty’s death that the PLTA added a higher-level category of trial (“Extreme”) with requirements about half of what Dusty commonly did in an average packing day, without conditioning.

Dusty enjoyed packing, driving, off-lead work, trying anything new, evaluating packs for The Backcountry Llama Newsletter, being ridden (good grief), edging the lawn, Coke Classic®, organic bananas (peels and all), carrying bigger and heavier loads than anyone else, and being certain his females were safe. Dusty wouldn’t have exactly said that he enjoyed his chiropractor or his dentist, but he certainly did appreciate them both for the extra comfort and longevity each provided him.

Although there are a few llamas who have come close to or matched Dusty’s performance in a single discipline, none have actually surpassed his packing, driving, or show performance competition abilities. Nor can any llama can match him in more than one area, let alone all three. Unquestionably, there has never been another llama to even approach Dusty’s all-around performance excellence . . . let alone sustain that excellence for a lifetime. He was the blueprint for the ultimate performance llama; he is still the blueprint for our breeding program. Everyone who had seen Dusty working with Gwen or quietly going about his tasks despite being attacked by others’ aggressive studs or having open females in close proximity knew immediately that he was the ultimate companion most people can only dream of. We know how extremely fortunate we were to share our lives with him.

In 2003, The Backcountry Llama Newsletter instituted an award to honor people who have gone above and beyond to further the causes of llamas and llama packing. That award, in recognition of his all-around superiority and service, was named The Ranger Dusty Award — a fitting tribute indeed! (Note: after Noel McRae, BCL founder and publisher sold the newsletter, the new owner-publisher renamed the award after one of his own llamas.)

We were told Dusty got his name by rolling in the dust ... very original. But Gwen’s first bike and first horse (borrowed) were both named Dusty. So it seemed a natural, even fateful thing to be intertwined with another “first” named Dusty.

Meet Dusty’s offspring: