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Difference Between Alpaca and Llama

Updated on June 10, 2018

The Alpaca and Llama are often confused with one another, and for good reason; both animals are known for their long necks. However, you can actually find a difference between Alpaca and Llama. It’s not difficult to find these differences when you know what to look at.


Difference Between Alpaca and Llama
Difference Between Alpaca and Llama | Source

Main Differences

 
Alpaca
Llama
Ears
Alpaca ears are short and shaped like a spear.
Alpaca ears are short and shaped like a spear.
Face
Its face is somewhat short and blunt.
Its face is longer, more protruding.
Weight
An average Alpaca weighs around 150 lbs.
A Llama can grow as heavy as 400 lbs
Height
Adult Alpacas reach an average of 3 feet.
Adult Llamas can grow as tall as 6 feet.
Fleece/Hair
An Alpaca has finer hair and grow more luxurious coats of fleece. There is also more variety in color.
A Llama has coarse hair and grows less of it around the face and neck.
Personality
Alpacas are timid and skittish. They take time to bond with as pets.
Llamas are brave and may be easier to keep as pets.
Use
They are often bred for their beautiful, fast-growing fleece.
They are used as a pack mule, and also bred in farms for its meat.

Origins

There is no difference between Alpaca and Llama origins. Both animals are domesticated versions of the wild camelids; the Vicuñas and Guanacos.

Originally, the Alpacas and Llamas (Vicuñas and Guanacos) live in South America, more commonly in the Andes Mountains. Some also inhabit the Pampas plains and the Atacama Desert.

These animals can withstand extreme heat and last longer without water. Living in the mountain ranges, they are accustomed to heights and are very good climbers. This makes it easy for them to travel through rough terrain and bear rugged journeys.

Among all of the camelids, the Llama is one of the largest and possibly the tallest. Although they are not as heavy as Camels, the Llama is large in body and has been used as a pack animal by the Andean people in South America.

The Native Americans have high regard for the Llama and Alpaca. They were very useful animals, providing not only meat but clothing as well, aside from being pack mules. Their dungs is also turned into fuel. They can carry loads as heavy as 75 lbs and still go as far as 20 miles in a single day.

They have become a vital part of daily living and culture of the people in the Andes Mountains.

Behavior

Llamas also tend to express themselves more. The popular “spitting” characteristic often comes from the Llama which does this for a variety of reasons like the Alpaca, just more often.

The Alpaca and Llama both spit as a means of expressing disdain. Spitting is commonly used to shoo off unwanted attention. A good example is when a pregnant female is being approached by a male; she will spit to warn him not to try anything on her.

In most cases, noises like grumbling and snorting are enough to ward off anything that threatens to invade their space.

The Alpaca and the Llama can be aggressive, especially when treated wrongly. Owners share accounts of their Llama or Alpaca simply lying on the floor, refusing to get up, and just humming when too tired, hungry or thirsty to do as it’s told. When not cared for or forced to do things without rest the Alpaca and/or Llama may resort to spitting and other more annoying sounds.

Llamas and Alpacas can screech. The sound is high pitched and thrilling due to the loudness. It actually catches many an owner by surprise since Alpacas and Llamas are generally, peaceful, timid and impressionable.

Similarities

At first glance, a lot of people don’t see much difference between Alpaca and Llama. This is understandable and better explained by the fact that both animals are camelids.

Camelids belong to the biological family called Camelidae, simply the Camel family. They are herbivorous animals that have particularly long legs and also slender, elongated necks. Besides with each other, Alpacas and Llamas are also cousins with the Camels, Vicuñas and Guanacos.

The facial features of the Llama and Alpaca do resemble the face of a Camel, except a smaller, stubbier version.

Specific Aspects

There is a debate on whether the Alpaca and Llama are truly cousins, since it was discovered that neither seem to have the same ancestors. Even so, both animals seemed to be related in some way through breeding. Nevertheless, with good observation, one can differentiate both animals by these certain aspects.

Face : It's possible to tell whether you're looking at an Alpaca or a Llama by just its face. Looking at the ears alone can give you a big hint. Typically, a Llama's ears are elongated and shaped like a banana. On the other hand, an Alpaca will have somewhat short, spear-shaped ears, quite like a Fox'.

To compare an Alpaca and Llama's face there's not much difference from features except one. An Alpaca's face looks snubbed or short compared to a Llama's which is longer. Seen at a side viewpoint, a Llama's nozzle is long and protruding, its head creating a reversed ‘L' shape. An Alpaca, on the other hand has a rounder, less angled facial feature. In a way, an Alpaca's face seem younger looking than a Llama's which often lead people to confuse it as a younger Llama.

Body : Overall, a Llama is definitely bigger than an Alpaca. Its size is almost twice that of the Alpaca. On average, an adult Llama is 250 lbs in weight, but can be as heavy as 450 lbs. At the shoulder, Llamas can grow up to 1.8 meters in height.

The adult Alpaca, however, is 120 lbs on average and can get as heavy as 140 lbs at most. Its height usually stops at 1.2 meters, at the shoulder although. It's fairly easy to tell an adult Llama for its tall height since adult Alpacas have an obviously small build.

Fleece and Coat : The fleece and coat is what probably sets the Alpaca and Llama apart in the farming industry. As pets and farm animals, Alpacas are renowned for their luxurious fleece. In a way, Llamas have lesser value in the market because of this detail.

An Alpaca is covered in fine, soft hair. From head to legs, it is lush with a beautiful fleece. Alpacas are domesticated mostly for its fleece; it's very dense and it also grows fast. Fiber and cotton are usually made out of this and they are strong, lightweight, hypo-allergenic and hard-wearing materials.

Like the sheep, an Alpaca needs shearing in the summer because its heavy coat makes it difficult to bear the heat. While the Llama has just as heavy a coat as the Alpaca, it's different in texture and appearance.

Similar to a Yak's, the Llama's hair is long, coarse and straggling. It covers most of its body but grow less around the legs, neck and face. Side by side, an Alpaca appears more fluffy or frothy than a Llama.

Although people prefer the fleece from an Alpaca, there are uses for Llama hair too. Its overcoat is coarse and thick but the undercoat is soft and thin, almost like the Alpaca's. People make rugs and ropes out of a Llama's overcoat while the undercoat can be used for making finer garments.

In terms of fleece collection, the Alpaca simply yields more than the Llama as its fleece grows much faster.

Personality : Both Llama and Alpaca are quiet, gentle creatures and can be tamed and even kept as pets. Although these camelids share this same trait the Alpaca is said to be the coyer.

An Alpaca is a timid animal. It's very cautious and it can be difficult to earn its trust or tame it. It is a herd animal and will be comfortable to dwell among other farm animals but can be extremely wary of others like dogs and cats. In time, an Alpaca may grow familiar with such animals, especially when they spend much time together, say in a farm or home.

A Llama, on the other hand, is the braver of the two. It is easier to train and coax. Llamas, however, are more independent animals compared to Alpacas. They are also herd animals and will mingle with others but will prefer bigger personal space.

Types of Llama

There are not many breeds for Llamas, even today, when they are starting to become exotic pets and are being bred for afferent uses. There are, however, four common types that people know of.

Traditional Llama : Traditional Llamas grow less hair on its head, neck and legs. Most of its hair falls from its body which is somewhat longer. Their coat drapes and gives the appearance of a saddle. Some traditional Llamas may have guard hairs that is similar to a mane, just around the neck.

A traditional Llama's coated fleece doesn't appear attractive, compared to other Llama types. The irregularity of its coat makes it look rag-like. The rough guard hairs drape over the fine undercoat in a messy way.

Woolly Llama : Woolly Llamas are evidently very hairy and sport very thick coats. A woolly Llama's body is covered in thick wool, significantly more around the head, neck and ears.

Unlike other Llama types, a woolly Llama also has thick wool on its legs. The fiber quality of its coat is finer and softer than other Llama types. It is also single layered. Because of its wooliness, it is the closest in appearance to an Alpaca and may be the reason why the two animals are often mistaken for one another.

Medium Llama : Medium Llamas have a thicker coat than Traditional Llamas. Llamas types are often identified by the characteristic of their coats which makes Medium Llamas difficult to categorize.

Its body seems woolly and thick but the area around the head, neck and ears are ever slightly less hairy. The feet also have less growth. As an overall appearance, a woolly Llama is frothy-looking while the Medium Llama is only slightly less, for its thinner looking legs and neck.

Suri Llama : The most difficult type of Llama to breed is the Suri Llama. Named like the Suri Alpaca, this Llama has an equally smooth and silky wool. In appearance it doesn't seem to differ much to a woolly Llama but a Suri Llama has a much luxurious coat.

Their hairs can grow as long as 12 inches and are so fine they valued close to cashmere. A Suri Llama also has two coats but it's hardly noticeable because the woolly guard is so smooth and straight it's hardly different from the undercoat at all.

Types of Alpaca

The more docile Alpaca may be the cuter domesticated animal but there are only a few breeds of this animal. There are only two breeds of Alpaca; the Suri and the Huacaya. Both breeds are typically soft, woolly and luxurious but there is one vital difference that is obvious to the naked eye.

Huacaya : The Huacaya is the breed of Alpaca that is most common, especially as pets. Its wool is full and fluffy much like the average sheep. The fleece is puffy and occasionally has crimps or crinkles found throughout the body.

The fiber is relatively short and dense. Soft to the touch, it is often used for making stuffed animals like teddy bears. 82% of all domesticated Alpacas are Accuracy.

Suri : The Suri Alpaca has an equally dense coat but the fleece is not frothy but straggly like ropes. More like hair than wool, the pencil fiber drapes over the Alpaca's body in what appears like “dreadlocks”.

These fibers, like that of the Suri Llama, are considered luxurious and fetch a very high price in the market. There's so much variety to be expected; including the color.

Alpacas seem to have more color variety than their relative, the Lllamas. The range of colors vary greatly; from from hard, solid colors to interesting ones like dark rose gray.

Aside from the outward appearance of its fleece, both Alpaca breeds are all-in-all the same as ever.

Uses : Because of the strong and fine fleece that the Alpaca and Llama provide, they have become valuable farm animals. The fleece is made into yarn and silky threads that are useful and popular in the fashion industry.

Fleece : Rugs, cotton and stuffing have been made out of their fleece. Llama's woolly coat and rough strands are sometimes used to make wicks and ropes.

Pack Animals : Like the Andeans people, some families still use Alpaca and Llama as pack animals. Because these animals are accustomed to heat and rocky slopes they are still often taught to carry weights for their owners.

Meat Source : It's not common but Alpaca and Llama meat are given value too. Normally, Llamas are bred more for this as they are larger than the Alpaca.

Suggestions

All in all, both the Alpaca and Llama are healthy, sturdy creatures that are relatively easy to care for. They are relatively easy to keep as pets it's ideal that you have a wide piece of land to let a herd animal such as this to roam. Experience in caring for other farm-type animals is also an advantage.

The difference between and Alpaca and Llama may seem small but it is certainly significant in aiding you in choosing the right animal, for whatever purpose you intend. If your purpose is to profit from fleece, the Alpaca is the better choice. If your purpose is more personal than business-related, there is no real difference between either unless you prefer certain qualities like size or behavior.

In any case, both animals require proper care and should be treated with respect and attention like any other domesticated animal.

References

Comments

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    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      16 months ago from Houston, Texas

      Thanks for introducing us to the differences between Alpacas and Llamas. In Yosemite National Park we saw some (probably) Llamas being used as pack animals. This was an interesting article.

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