Every morning, four llamas bask in the morning sun on a hill near Shirley Pringle's house. Later, in the heat of the day, they retreat to the shade of a nearby oak. It's just the sort of picturesque scene Ms. Pringle envisioned when she bought the animals for $1,000 apiece to roam the 7.5 acres surrounding her rural Kelseyville, Calif., home a couple of hours from San Francisco.

"It's exactly what I had in mind -- a minifarm," said Ms. Pringle, who also has pheasants and chickens on her fenced property. Ms. Pringle doesn't breed the animals: She just likes to look at them. "My land is definitely unique when you drive down the road and see these four llamas," she says.

People have used animals as prey, pets and food for thousands of years. Bored with conventional landscaping, some homeowners now are using bulls, sheep, chickens and other live animals as outdoor decor.


"Why do people have horses? You never see them ride them," says Don King, president of Texas Longhorn Breeders Association of America, an organization of 5,000 cattle breeders. Instead, he says, the point is: "You can have something that no one else has."

Six years ago when Janet and Pattie Chelseth bought a house in Shingle Springs, Calif., about 30 minutes from Sacramento, they populated the 10 acres with livestock to give their spread the look of a farm. They also brought in six rare miniature Icelandic sheep and two Indian runner ducks to hang out around a pond stocked with mosquitofish and bullfrogs.

"We saw these odd ducks and thought they were pretty cool looking," says Pattie Chelseth, a nurse practitioner, of the runner ducks, which stand upright and look a bit like bowling pins. As for the sheep, she says, "This area is a farming community, but this is probably the first time the county has seen Icelandic sheep."

Four-legged outdoor ornaments are catching on as homeowners go to ever-greater lengths to outdo their neighbors and make their property stand out.


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