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.
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.
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.
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.
Both species are induced ovulators. This means that females do not enter heat cyclically but ovulate during mating only.
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.
|Height||170 - 180 cm||81 - 99 cm|
|Weight||130 - 200 kg||48 - 84 kg|
|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|