Are llamas the same as alpacas? Both alpacas and llamas have been domesticated and used for fleece production as well as transportation for thousands of years. These animals are both native primarily to Bolivia and Peru and both belong to the camel family (Camelidae). Two other wild species, the guanaco and the vicuna also belong to this family. So how to tell the difference between a llama and an alpaca?
What You'll Learn Today
Difference Between A Llama And An Alpaca
Although many people believe that llamas and alpacas are the same animal, there are six obvious, visible differences. They are:
Alpacas are much smaller than llamas. An alpaca measures about 3 feet high at the withers (shoulder) and weighs between 120 and 140 pounds. Llamas are about 4 feet high at the withers and weigh about 250 pounds.
Alpaca fleece is silky and comes in a wide variety of colors, but llamas have coarse wool. Alpaca fleece can be used to make many luxurious textile items, but llama wool is only suitable for rougher products.
3. Facial shape
An alpaca’s face is small and blunt. A llama has a long, goat-like face.
4. Ear shape
Alpacas’ ears are short and round, but llamas have long, banana shaped ears.
Llamas are more aggressive than alpacas. If they are mistreated, they will fight back by spitting, pawing and kicking. Alpacas are quite timid, don’t tend to spit and are more likely to run away than fight back.
Because llamas are larger, they are able to carry quite a bit of weight. For this reason they have traditionally been used as pack animals. A llama can carry a load as heavy as 132 pounds for nearly 20 miles a day. Alpacas are more delicate and are not able to carry a significant load, but they can be trained to pull a small cart.
Because of their more aggressive disposition, llamas are useful as guard animals for less aggressive prey animals such as sheep and alpacas. Because of their sweet disposition, alpacas are more suitable than llamas when kept as pets.
Common Alpaca Are Useful Livestock Worldwide
Alpacas are not just pets, though. In South America, unregistered herds of alpacas are still kept out in the open, grazing on the hillsides. These small animals are not used as beasts of burden, as are their cousins the llamas.
Like pedigreed stock in the US, these unregistered animals are prized for their fleece, which is used to make necessary, everyday items such as:
Although these alpacas run fairly free, they are not wild animals. The only wild alpacas left in the world are the vicuna. Domesticated alpacas are slightly larger than these.
Both Llamas And Alpacas Are Herd Animals
Whether you decide to keep llamas or alpacas, you’ll need to keep a minimum of two or three. These animals are unhappy when kept alone. Fortunately they don’t need too much space.
When left to their own devices, alpacas live in family groups consisting of a single alpha male, several females and their cria (babies). These prey animals are alert and cautious and may exhibit a great deal of anxiety in new and unfamiliar settings.
Unlike llamas, alpacas are mostly quiet. When threatened, alpacas may make a sharp, high braying sound. They may attempt to ward off small predators by trampling with their front feet. If surprised from behind they may kick.
Unfortunately, because alpacas do not have hooves, they cannot inflict much damage either way. Their sharp toenails can cause cuts, and a kick may inflict a bruise, but it’s not much damage when compared with a kick from a horse, donkey or even a goat.
Can A Llama And An Alpaca Crossbreed?
Yes, they can. All members of this species, llamas, alpacas, guanaco and vicuna can interbreed, and their offspring are fertile.
Llama Vs Alpaca | What’s The Difference
Frequently Asked Questions
Alpacas are typically easier to train and handle and seem to be able to learn and retain more information than llamas. They are able to learn tricks, verbal commands and hand signals quickly and well. Llamas are bigger and stronger, but they are also rather resistant to learning. They can make good pack animals, but perhaps are not quite as delightful and engaging as alpacas.
Llamas are at least twice as big as alpacas, so they are naturally stronger. While both can be trained as pack animals, llamas can carry quite a bit more weight (up to sixty pounds). A llama could be used as a pack animal to carry your gear on a long and challenging climb. An alpaca could carry your picnic supplies on a day hike (and keep you good company while doing so!)
While alpacas are more friendly and pleasant than llamas, they are less likely to adjust well to being kept in a mixed group of animals. They typically like to live in groups of at least three alpacas and may not like being around other types of animals. Llamas need a bit more socializing and handling to bring out their (sometimes limited) friendliness; however, they do tend to be able to adjust to living in mixed groups of animals. For these reasons, if you have the space and can get a young, neutered male llama, that might be the best choice for a petting zoo environment.
To be sure of having an animal that is easy to handle and doesn’t spit or kick, it’s always good to start out with a very young llama or alpaca. Weanling age is usually best because you will not need to bottle feed, and the animal will want to bond with you. It is actually best to avoid bottle feeding because you don’t want your pet llama or alpaca to think of you as a herd member. You should stay firmly in charge. Raise your animal like the small farm animal that it is – not like a cat or dog. You should establish a regular feeding and grooming schedule, halter break your llama or alpaca and handle him or her every day. If you have a male, get him neutered right away (before he reached sexual maturity). This will help keep him manageable and cooperative.
You can certainly keep a mixed herd, but if you do, it’s important to introduce them when they are young to prevent having large llamas bully small alpacas. Be sure to have the males neutered to avoid crossbreeding. It is also wise to choose male alpacas and female llamas. Even neutered males (both alpacas and llamas) tend to be more aggressive than females, and large male llamas can seriously injure small female alpacas.