Difference between Llamas and Alpacas

Llamas

Very similar and therefore often confused

Both llama and alpaca are members of Camelidae family. Both species live in South America (mostly Peru and Bolivia), and there is an overlap in their range. Because of their membership in the family Camelidae, both two species have three-chamber stomachs and are even-toed.

Almost completely exterminated by European colonizers

Once, both species thrived in all South America, but since the early 16th century, they were excessively killed by Spanish conquistadors. The animals were forced to migrate to higher elevations, where they can be found today. It is estimated that the Spanish colonists wiped out up to 98% of the alpaca population.

High altitude adaptations

Llamas and alpacas are well adapted to live on higher elevations, as their blood is rich in hemoglobin which helps to deal with altitude sickness. Dense coat is also beneficial as temperatures in high mountains can drammatically drop at night.

Domestication by Incas

The Incas knew the llamas and alpacas very well and it is thanks to them that these animals were domesticated. Llamas were the basis of transportation in the Inca Empire. They also served as food as they were bred for meat. Alpacas were mainly used in the textile industry, although their meat was also on the menu of the Incas.

The same way of reproduction 

Both species are induced ovulators. This means that females do not enter heat cyclically but ovulate during mating only.

Llamas vs. Alpacas - point by point
1.Size
Llamas are larger than alpacas. An adult llama is 1,7 to 1,8 m (5,5 to 5,9 ft) high, while alpacas are only 81 to 99 cm (2,65 to 2,98 ft) high.
2.Ears
Alpacas have short, pointy ears, while llamas have larger, with curved shape.
3.Face
Alpacas have more hairy faces than llamas.
4.Nose
Llama nose is long while alpacas have blunt and short one.
5.Territorialism
Llamas willingly and courageously defend their territory against intruders. Alpacas prefer to move away and hide rather than face an open confrontation.
6.Coat color
Alpacas have more uniform coloration while llamas are usualy more patchy.
7.Coat structure
Llamas have coarse coat with fine hidden underneath. Alpacas are fluffy with a fine hair all over their bodies. Their fleece is very dense and fast-growing.
8.Utilization
Llamas because of their size are mostly used as a transport animal or raised for meat. Alpacas are more lucky as their fiber is a high quality, luxury material they are commonly utilized as a source of it.
9.Behavior
Due to relatively small bodies, alpacas tend to seek shelter when in danger. On the other hand, llamas display agressiveness while in danger. They may kick, scream, spit and charge potential predator.
Summary

Although it can be hard to tell from a distance what kind of animal you're dealing with, now you know how to recognize it during a close encounter. We present a side by side comparison of both species in the table below.

 

  Llama Alpaca
Height 170 - 180 cm 81 - 99 cm
Weight 130 - 200 kg 48 - 84 kg
Face long snout blunt
Ears long, banana shaped short, pointy
Gestation period 11,5 months 11,5 months
Offspring number one (rarely two) one (rarely two)
Lifespan 15 - 25 years 15 - 20 years
Fiber diameter 30 - 40 μm 10 - 15 μm

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Llamas
Llamas vs. Alpacas

Quick comparison

Similarities
Gestation period
Both llamas and alpacas gestation period lasts about 11,5 months.
Offspring number
Both species have usually one offspring, very rarily twins are born.
Taxonomy
They both belong to the same Camelidae family.
Differences
Guardstock
Llamas can be used as livestock guardians thanks to their temperament and size, but alpacas are too small, docile, and shy to confront predators.
Temperament
Llamas are more agressive and ferocious while alpacas are shy and docile.
Weight and size
Llamas are twice as high and massive than alpacas.

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