Think about the last time you saw a photo of a llama, alpaca, or goat on the internet. Was it thriving in a verdant field? Did it look good-natured, or like it had just finished a well-rounded meal? Did it have a supportive group of friends and lovers? Was it utterly absurd? They’re everywhere: from memes to home décor to diapers to the top toy of 2019. So it should come as no surprise, then, that I’m calling camelids and their cousins (goats) the internet darlings of the 2010s.
WHY, though? What is it about these slightly odd, very spitty quadrupeds that has had the internet, and specifically social media, going berserk? Say what you will, trend experts, but I have an infallible theory that is not founded on any data: Llamas, alpacas, and goats occupy an “alternative” space that perfectly reflects the cultural zeitgeist, making them the ideal social media animals.
We didn’t get here by accident. When the internet was born, cats undeniably dominated. Memes, videos, Reddit threads—it was all cats, all the time. And it makes sense: Felines were the perfect animal counterpart to the original internet dwellers; quiet, individualistic, often introverted and surly (if you feel like I’m judging, trust me, I was one of them).
As the internet started to fill out and universalize, however, dogs took over as the darling of online culture. Being the most beloved domestic animal, videos of boops and puppy piles and soldiers coming home to their dogs were really “it” for the majority of the 2000s, and to some extent, will probably be forever. But at some point, the internet cried and said, “This place was made for all kinds, for weirdos and normals alike (but, like, mostly weirdos). Is there not an animal that’s a little less, I don’t know, obvious that can be our mascot?”
Cut to a video of screaming goat, the proverbial kid in the coalmine.
The rest followed:
In 2013, the aforementioned goat went viral, and so did the Taylor Swift parody.
In 2014, Frostie the Goat wheeled his little hind hooves right into my heart.
In 2015, two llamas escaped from a retirement home in Sun City, AZ and the sexy police chase went viral.
In 2017, a video of goats in jammies at a farm in Maine took my soul by STORM.
In 2018, a change.org petition forced THE emoji-makers into creating a llama emoji.
By the time 2019 rolled around, llamas, alpacas, and goats were fixtures of memes, videos, and social media in particular, making their way onto brand and media Instagram and Twitter accounts as some of the most highly-engaged content. Because who can look at a pic of alpacas kissing and be like, fuck that? None of you can. Not one.
There’s a good chance you’ve noticed all of these animals on the @manrepeller Instagram, if you follow us there (and omg we are FIGHTING if you don’t because I manage it and it’s my child). They’re the perfect fit, and not just because they’re part of a cultural moment that defined the 2010s and gave us the breath of fresh grassy air and oddball levity we so desperately desired, but also because they inspire the right questions, such as: How did you even come to be, you strange, strange horse-cat? They’re bizarre, just like us.
That said, we’re moving into a whole new decade of possibility, and though I’m not saying goodbye to our fuzzy freak friends, I’m curious about the next energizing animal movement. Will it be afghans? Capybaras? Let me know your thoughts. Personally, I’m pulling for lizards but I understand if that’s not your scene.
Feature photos via Daniel Gebhart de Koekkoek.