Alpaca vs Llama: the main differences between the animals
Llamas & alpacas all belong to the camel family. You will meet them everywhere in the Andean highlands. Especially at the beginning of a South America trip they are not always easy to distinguish and somehow always look the same.
The main features of animals
For those who would like to know which of these Andean camels is just in front of them, here are some significant characteristics & distinguishing features.
First, the llama is the tallest of the camelids at 1.7 m, surpassing the alpaca, which measures between 81 and 99 cm. Due to its size and 70 kg, the alpaca is lighter than the llamas, weighing between 130 and 200 kg. Due to their strong physique, llamas carry animals with a carrying capacity of about 40 kg on their backs. Llamas have longer necks and higher, pointed ears. Alpaca’s ears are rounder and smaller. As you will have gathered, the llama is the most imposing camel of the family but stays with the alpaca among the animals domesticated by Andean peoples.
Both alpacas and llamas can regularly be found at petting zoos or animal parks. They are peaceful herd animals with a high pettiness level. Nevertheless, there are differences between the two. Llamas are generally more dominant and can act more aggressively against any kind of threat. Alpacas, therefore, are actually much sweeter than llamas. They are gentle and friendly towards people. So a friend for life, such an alpaca!
Similarities between llamas and alpacas
Some commonalities between these two animals that can cause confusion are:
- Same habitat
- Herbivorous animals
- They live in packs
- Docile temperament
- Spitting as a form of defence
- Physical similarities
- Soft fur
To better understand the differences between these two animals, we will need to survey the ones.
Big difference in ears of both animal species
First, you can look at the difference in the ears of llamas and alpacas. A llama often has somewhat banana-shaped ears, while alpacas are notable for their very straight and pointed ears.
Pay attention to the shape of the head
Differences can also be noticed in the shape of the head of alpacas and llamas. For example, an alpaca’s head is covered with much more wool than that of a llama. In addition, the head of an alpaca is more compact than that of a llama. However, it is precisely the compactness of the alpaca that makes many fanciers find these animals so cute.
The difference in the type of wool coat
Llamas do not have fur but hair. The “coat” of a llama consists of an undercoat with rougher cover hairs. This llama hair cannot be spun and falls out annually. A llama, therefore, does not need to be shaved. Alpacas, on the other hand, do need to be shaved regularly! Alpacas have a thick, woolly coat and are often bred for their famous alpaca wool! Alpaca wool has cashmere’s quality, appearance, and softness and is therefore popular in the clothing industry! Did you know that alpaca wool is 10x warmer than sheep wool?
The Behavior of Alpaca and Lama
As indicated above, alpacas are not likely to come to you on their own and are quite shy, timid and cautious. A llama is proud and certainly not afraid. They will come up to you faster than running away and will not stop spitting on you if you don’t leave. Fun fact: alpacas can spit but will only use it as a very last option.
Alpacas are not very good at protecting themselves and really need a herd to survive. Therefore, you often see them in groups. On the other hand, llamas are more self-sufficient and can survive on their own.
The alpaca and llama trend
In one thing, however, the animals do not differ: Experiences with them are the absolute hit at the moment. Whether it’s guided llama trekking or alpaca hikes – we humans just can’t get enough of the fluffy companions.
The differences between llamas and alpacas are not as striking as in other species. But just keep in mind the information we have given you to be able to distinguish them.
If you find yourself in front of a specimen of this family and you are not sure whether it is a llama or an alpaca, base yourself on its size and the shape of its ears instead of provoking it to see if it spits on you.