Alpaca vs. Llama

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Alpaca vs Llama

As an alpaca farmer, one of the most common misconceptions we deal with is people who think we actually raise llamas. Many have a hard time telling the difference between an alpaca and a llama. They are very similar in appearance, making it difficult to differentiate between them. Others have never seen an alpaca and simply believe they are small llamas. However, they are very different animals with very different traits. This list will help you learn to differentiate between both of these amazing animals.

Alpaca vs Llama: List of top 10 differences

Below is the top 10 list of ways to tell the difference between an alpaca and a llama. These tips will make it easier for you to know which animal you are looking at when you are at a farm, zoo or notice a herd coming towards your way.

1. Ears

The first thing to look for is the ears. They are the easiest to differentiate because alpaca have pointed and straight ears whereas llama have banana-shaped ears.

2. Wool

The llama has course fiber and does not produce wool that can be used in the manufacturing of garments. Their body is covered with fleece, but it is only for protection and not for production of scarfs or sweaters. On the other hand, alpacas are raised and bred specifically for the luxurious wool.

  • Alpaca is known for producing some of the finest quality wool in the world
  • You will be amazed to know that there are 22 natural and beautiful color of alpaca wool
  • Natural alpaca has shades from black to ivory and the wool is not dyed, which means color is not going anywhere.

3. Face

At first glance, their faces might appear similar, but if you look closely you will notice alpaca has a lot woollier and fuzzier face as compared to a llama that does not have as much fleece. Alpaca also have a blunt face whereas llama have a longer face that gives them a unique and funny expression.

4. Size

Llama are bigger than alpaca, easily weighing 400 pounds. Whereas alpaca is lighter, with an average weight of 150 pounds. The height of llama can reach up to 110 cm whereas alpaca average around 90 cm.

5. Purpose

Llamas are very strong and they have a strong back that is perfect for carrying a huge load for long distances. That is why they are known as the "Ships of the Andes". On the other hand, you might have already known that alpaca is famous for its wool and they cannot even carry a small child. Alpaca are typically very gentle whereas llama are very strong and brave.

6 Strength

Alpaca are prey animals that need special guard animals because they cannot protect themselves. Llamas can easily protect themselves and are often used to protect alpacas.

7. Training

When it comes to training, alpacas are eager to learn and easily learn new tricks. You will only have to teach them something once or twice. Once they learn, you will not have to repeat the process, because they are very smart. Llama on the other hand, can be stubborn and might resist learning new things. With a llama, you will have to work harder to train. The key is to make sure the llama feels safe around you. Even then, you will have to repeat yourself several times to teach your llama new tricks.

8. Herd mentality

Alpacas need to be in a group to survive and that is why it is a 100% herd animal. On the other hand, llama do not like to depend on others and are very independent minded.

9. Protection strategy

As previously mentioned, alpaca cannot protect themselves and are more timid prey animals. However, llama have a special protection mechanism that they can use anytime they feel threatened. They will spit on the individual or animal they feel threatened by. Alpaca mainly spit on other herd-mates while fighting over food or resisting a breeding attempt.

10. Temperament

When it comes to temperament, you have to be very careful around llamas. Just like dogs have the urge to bite when they are scared or threatened, llama will kick to defend themselves. One must stay calm around llamas to prevent stressing them. If you are calm and keep a low profile, most llama will relax and let you touch them.

On the other hand, if you are loud or you try to approach them in an aggressive manner, llamas can feel threatened and attack. When it comes to alpaca, most are very timid and would rather run than attack.

Which is easier to take care of?

A common question most people ask is whether it is easier to take care of an alpaca or llama. Both are great animals. Once you get a chance to understand them better, you will recognize how easy it is to live with them and keep them healthy. If you are planning to start a business of breeding, we would naturally recommend alpacas, but you could have the best of both worlds by using a llama for herd protection.