Llamas And Alpacas, What Makes Them So Similar But So Different At The Same Time?


Llamas and Alpacas are animals that belong to the Mammalia class, Artiodactyl order, Chilopoda suborder and Camelidae family. They are mammals with medium-to large-size, long and thin necks, small heads, and a slender snout with a cleft upper lip. They rest on their stomach by bending their legs beneath the body. They don’t have any hornlike structure on their low and elongated skill and their toes bear nails rather than hooves.

herd of animal eating grasses

Compared with Alpacas, Llamas eat more food, require more space, mature earlier and live a bit longer. While alpacas need to be sheared every year, llamas need to be sheared only once in two years. Llamas may look like Alpacas at first sight, but they are different in many things. When it comes to their ears, Alpacas’ are short and spear-shaped while llamas’ are much longer and banana-shaped.

photo of brown 4-legged animal

Llamas are comparatively bigger as they get as heavy as 400 pounds and between 42 and 46 inches in height, while Alpacas weigh around 150 pounds and between 34 and 36 inches in height. Llamas have a longer face that distinguishes it from Alpacas that have a bit more blunt face, giving them a smooshy look. The alpacas have super fine and luxurious fibre in a much greater variety of colours than llamas that do not have as much hair on their head and face.

herd of alpacas during daytime

The fibre of alpacas is hypoallergenic, water-repellent and warmest of all wools which are used for producing high-end fibre products like socks, scarves and hats. Both the animals have been bred for over 5,000 years; Llamas are used for pack, guarding, transport, and for meat. The fibre of llama is used to manufacture ropes and packing bags, skin for producing leather goods, and the bones for making loom instruments. Alpacas are used for high-quality fibre, dung for fuel and as well as for meat in some places like Peru.

brown and white animal on high ground under white sky

Similar characteristics

Some of the similarities between Llamas and Alpacas are that they are both herbivores and belong to the Camelidae family and Mammalia class. They are both domesticated and trainable and build up and return to dung piles that are used as a form of territorial marker. The fibres of both the animals are a renewable source and female reproduction takes place through induced ovulation. Their pregnancy test is done through spit testing and the gestation period is 350 days. Llamas and alpacas also have a typical price which is $500-$20,000.

brown llamma next to brown wooden wall

Behaviour

The personality of llamas and alpacas differ in many ways. Llamas are pack animals that are protective and alert, while alpacas are timid, kind, relaxed and can be just plain goofy. Alpacas are herd animals that tend to be a bit more skittish than llamas that are used to guard small livestock animals like alpacas and sheep as they are more independent-minded.

brown and white animal head on brown wooden fence during daytime

The natural habitat of Llamas and alpacas are semi-arid to arid plains, grasslands, and desert and are found in the Andean high plateau and the arid plains of western and southern South America. High, arid environments formed by grasses are home to llamas, while alpacas live in humid places of the Andean high plateaus or Altiplano known as Bofedales, where tender grass can grow.

white llama on grass field

Llamas are distributed from northeast Argentina through Pampa to Tierra del Fuego. The species is also irregularly distributed in Chile’s northern regions of Tarapaca, Copiapo, and La Serena, and the Cen-Guanacos. A large number of alpacas and llamas have been taken to the United States and Australia to be traded as pets.

white and brown Llamas on grass field

Both the species are diurnal, adapted to harsh climates, and may spit, and sometimes kick, when threatened. They have lost their sense of social structure as they are raised as domestic stock. Llamas are raised in herds of up to 100 animals and are driven by herders to grasslands every day, while alpacas are docile and gregarious, and show no social behaviour.

brown llama on green grass field during daytime

Both the species that belong to the camel family, Camelidae, are primarily found in Peru and Bolivia and have been used by humans for transportation and fleece production for over 5,000 years. They are the only two domesticated animals among the four lamoid species – other two vicunas and guanaco are their wild cousins. All four lamoid species can interbreed and create fertile offspring, but alpacas and llamas often differ in key ways when conflated.

Llamas are used by humans as pack animals, considering an average llama’s ability to carry a load of 45 to 60 kg for up to 30 km each day. Llamas are gentle creatures though they have a bad reputation among farmers because they react by spitting, kicking, lying down or refusing to move when overloaded or maltreated. Llamas are used as guard animals for livestock like sheep and even alpacas that are bit timid and like to stay with their herd.

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