31 Mar Llamas vs Alpacas: Spot the Difference
It can often prove difficult to tell the difference between llamas and alpacas, and understandably so. They share many of the same characteristics, and, without seeing them side by side, they may appear to be one of the same. Their similarities mainly come down to the fact that they are both members of the Camelidae (camel) family, so genetics are largely to blame for our confusion! Both animals originated and are primarily located in Peru and Bolivia, both are herbivores, both have been bred for more than 5,000 years, they need the same care (sheering, toenail clipping and teeth grinding,) and their similar temperaments lend themselves to being used as therapy animals. But, there are three key differences which can help when trying to differentiate between the two.
Llamas vs Alpacas
1. Their size and shape
Llamas are actually significantly taller and heavier than alpacas, at around 120cm in shoulder height compared to the alpaca’s 90cm and weighing between 130 – 200 kilograms, more than double that of their companion. Their face shape can be described as rather elongated compared to the short, blunt face of the alpaca, and the lack of facial hair makes the llama’s face much more distinguishable! Ear shape is another facial difference; the banana-shaped ears of the llama can be observed compared to the short, straight ears of the alpaca.
For a long time, the physical characteristics of both the llama and alpaca have been used to the advantage of Bolivians and Peruvians. Undoubtedly, the llama is more sociable and people friendly than the alpaca, which is perhaps due to their use as pack animals. Thanks to their size and strength, they are not only used as guard animals for livestock, but they can carry a relatively heavy load, between 45kg and 60kg for up to 30km each day. But, you will know about it if you’ve loaded too much weight onto the llama’s back as they will react by spitting, kicking, lying down and refusing to move.
The alpaca is not antisocial nor unfriendly, but is more timid, preferring to stay amongst their herd. This is most likely because they have not had as much interaction with humans as llamas have. Both, however, can be trained and raised to be more people friendly.
The main use of the alpaca has been for fleece production – its shaggy hair has perfectly soft, warm, lightweight and hypo-allergenic qualities. Contrastingly, the coarse texture of the llama’s hair is not as soft and warm, therefore is not considered as greater quality as the alpaca’s. Instead of fleece, their hair can be used for rugs, cushion fillings and ropes. The colour of the hair for both llamas and alpacas can vary greatly, from white and yellow to brown and black.
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