We're often asked what the difference is between Alpacas vs Llamas. Both llamas and alpacas are south american camelids and they are related but definitely not the same. In addition to these camelids, in South America there are also Vicunas and Guanacos but for this article we'll mostly be focusing on Alpacas and Llamas.
1. Size - Llamas are much larger than alpacas often weighing up to 400 pounds. Alpacas are smaller, normally weighing between 120 and 150 pounds. This was something we considered when we started our alpaca ranch since we had younger children and we felt alpacas would be easier to handle. That said, we have known other ranches that had both alpacas and llamas and the llamas were very sweet and the owners had no issues with having the these larger animals on their ranch. Likewise, we've had some male alpacas that were quite feisty and we always made sure our children were closely supervised when they were around them.
2. Ears - Alpacas have straight, pointed ears while Llamas have long banana shaped ears.
3. Face - Alpacas have cute, blunt nose faces, normally with a lot of fur. Llamas have longer noses and much less fur on their face.
This is one of our baby alpacas. Her name is Daphne and we think she is pretty cute. Each alpaca on our ranch has a fun name to match their personality.
4. Personality - Alpacas are shy herd animals and stick together when threatened by a predator. Llamas are independent and more confident when threatened. This is why you may hear of alpaca ranchers having a 'Guard llama' to protect their alpaca herd. The llama will live peacefully with the alpacas and protect them if threatened by a predator. Some alpaca ranches will have 1 guard llama that will protect the herd of alpacas. If a predator is nearby, the llama will distance itself from the herd of alpacas and draw the predator away from the herd of alpacas.
Halter training alpacas on our ranch with our children
5. Fiber - Alpaca has fine, soft fiber, normally 18-30 microns. This fiber is excellent for alpaca garments like shawls, hats and socks. Llama fiber is more coarse, normally 50-65 microns and not as suitable for garments. One exception is baby llama fiber which can be very soft and below 30 microns so it has a similar feel to alpaca. You can learn more about how we grade alpaca fiber in this article.
6. Purpose - Alpaca have been bred for 1000's of years for their fine fleece. We use the fleece to make Alpaca Yarn, Alpaca Socks and Alpaca apparel. Llamas are work animals bred as pack animals and to help guard other livestock. . Both alpacas and llamas have a place on the ranch and on the prairies and both fulfil their roles well.
7. Trekking- If you love hiking in the wilderness and are looking for an animal to carry your equipment, then a Llama could be a good choice. They are sure footed and strong enough to carry up to one third of their body weight. Alpacas are not used for trekking due to their size.
Do you know about 'Wild' cousins of Llamas and Alpacas? Be sure to learn about the less known Guanaco and Vicuna. These wild species are also in South America. The Guanaco is smaller than a Llama but larger than an Alpaca. It is thought to be the early ancestor of the modern Llama. The Vicuna is a wild, undomesticated relative of the Alpaca. Until recently the Vicuna was an endangered species in most countries and is still protected as a 'Threatened' species by most governments. The Vicuna is lighter and more delicate than a Guanaco and it's fiber is very valuable. For instance, a Vicuna scarf will normally retail for around $1200 and will come with a certificate of origin with a government authenticity stamp and approval document.
We love alpaca for the wonderful garments we can produce with it. That is why we work with our suppliers in Peru to bring you the finest alpaca socks and apparel at the most reasonable prices. Hence, our name...Alpaca Direct!
Here's a quick video where Kelley describes some our our alpaca yarn, apparel and socks. Learn why natural fiber alpaca makes superior hats, scarves and socks!
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