How To Tell The Difference Between A Llama And An Alpaca?

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?

Difference Between A Llama And An Alpaca

how to tell the 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:

1. Size

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.

2. Hair

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.

5. Disposition

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.

6. Uses

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
Alpacas

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:

  • Blankets
  • Sweaters
  • Scarves
  • Ponchos
  • Gloves
  • Socks
  • Coats
  • Caps

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

Llamas
Llamas

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

Nicky Ellis
Nicky has been an editor at Farm & Animals since 2019. Farm animals have been in her life from her earliest memories, and she learned to ride a horse when she was 5. She is a mom of three who spends all her free time with her family and friends, her mare Joy, or just sipping her favorite cup of tea.

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