Throughout the Andean zone, in the heart of South America, we can find many llamas, alpacas, vicuñas and guanacos.
The alpaca or llama in Perú are native animals of the Andes and very important for the countries of the region. Traveling to Peru or Bolivia, and not seeing any of these animals, would be like going to Paris and not seeing the Eiffel Tower.
Due to the hybridization and near extinction of South American camelids during the Spanish invasion, for many years the true origins of the llama, alpaca and other animals belonging to the same family were not known with certainty.
Although these origins have already been clarified, it is normal to want to know what are the differences between alpaca compared to llama continue reading this article.
The differences between alpaca vs llama are obvious to those who are used to seeing them, although for someone traveling for the first time to the areas where they can be found, they may seem like the same animal.
Before listing the differences of alpaca or llama in Perú, it is pertinent to note their similarities: these animals have a very similar habitat and are closely related to each other. They both belong to the camel family, and they also have strong ties to vicuñas and guanacos, although these two are wild animals.
Both alpaca or llama in Perú have a similar diet: they are herbivores and feed by grazing. The two species live in herds and are domesticated animals; they live peacefully together with man. Now we will see their differences, which go beyond the physical:
The characteristics that make the differences between alpaca vs llama also have to do with their relationship with man and their character, not only with their physique. Both are docile animals, but react differently to the proximity of strangers.
Llamas were widely used as pack animals by those who live in the Andean countryside. Their wool is not as refined as alpaca wool and their heads are not as fluffy. Llamas are more independent and less nervous than their smaller cousins. Because they tend to be more aggressive, they are sometimes used as guard animals to care for herds of alpacas, sheep, and other animals.
Alpaca compared to llama have been bred for their wool for over 5,000 years, recognized for their quality and softness. Its meat is also used for various dishes. It is a smaller species in relation to the flame since it weighs between 45 and 77 kilos maximum and can measure up to 90 centimeters in length. Their short ears, flatter muzzles and smaller frames set them apart from llamas.
The alpaca compared to llama fabric is used to make sweaters, ponchos, scarves, vests and bedspreads. The largest alpaca population within Peru is in the Puno region but also in Cusco.
Alpaca compared to llama, do not reach a meter in height and can weigh up to 70kgs.
Normally the legs are much shorter than those of her friends the llamas. The same goes for necks. In addition, they have a less pronounced nose.
Two ways to distinguish a llama from an alpaca are its banana-shaped ears and their larger bodies since the llama weighs up to 120 kilos and measures from one meter to 1.2 meters.
The key to differentiating between these two species is based on alpaca vs llama ears; in size and shape: Llamas have longer ears with banana-like curves, while alpacas have smaller, straighter, and more pointed ears.
One of the most notable differences between llamas and alpacas is their size: llamas are visibly higher than alpacas. The llamas measure about 120 centimeters to the withers, while the alpacas barely reach 90.
Therefore, they are also heavier: llamas are over 100 kilograms in weight, while alpacas do not usually exceed 60. That is, in size, alpacas are generally no taller than an adult human being, while that the flames, between the neck and the ears, do exceed their height.
Comparing alpaca vs llama size, the llama is twice the size of the alpaca. Llamas are heavier (200 to 350 lbs / 90 to 158kg) and can even weigh 400 pounds (180kg), while alpaca commonly weighs between 100 to 175lbs (45 to 68kg).
Regarding alpaca vs llama size, the llama is a taller species, at 42 to 46 inches (approximately 110 cm); while alpacas measure between 34 to 36 inches (not more than 90cm).
If we look closely at his face, we find more differences between alpaca vs llama face: the alpacas are rounder and have less sharp features on their faces than their llamas.
The llama has a longer face, while the alpaca has a less pointed face. Comparing alpaca vs llama face, llamas have long, pointed ears: those of alpacas are more rounded. The same occurs with the nose: that of the alpacas stands out more and has a more elongated appearance.
Also, alpacas have more hair on their faces and heads than llamas. Which brings us to the next point…
Another way to differentiate llamas and alpacas is through the alpaca vs llama wool. While llamas have a thick outer coat of hair (and a thinner one inside), alpacas have thinner, much thicker and faster-growing fur. They even have their furry faces!
Comparing alpaca vs llama wool, alpaca wool is a highly coveted fiber for being soft and light, so not only do they have a thicker and more abundant coat than llamas, but they also look more fluffy.
On the contrary, since the wool of the llama is rougher and more difficult to work, they have been used as draft animals. This also takes advantage of its greater physical power. Llamas, therefore, have less wool and a rougher and less friendly appearance than alpacas.
Another of the differences is the alpaca vs llama temperament. While both are herd animals, domesticated and curious about humans, the differences end here.
Although it is something that cannot be seen with the naked eye, in general, the flames are more independent, and protect themselves if necessary. In fact, they tend to be the protectors against other herds; including alpacas. More than being a herd animal, the alpaca is usually more nervous.
Comparing alpaca vs llama temperament, alpacas are rather shy animals that will flee if strangers try to get close. They do not like to work for the human being and, if they ever feel upset or angry, they can resort to spitting; although if you have an escape you will prefer to get away.
By contrast, flames are more outgoing, but also more stubborn. If any flame feels bothersome or is not being treated the way she likes, you will have no hesitation in spitting or kicking anyone nearby. In addition, you can decide not to work for the human being and remain motionless or lie down, so that it is impossible to force it to move.
One of the things that llamas and alpacas have in common is that both have been domesticated for more than 5,000 years. As the llama skin is not of the same quality as that of alpacas, their meat is usually eaten more. Likewise, llamas are bred to be pack animals; Did you know that flames can carry a quarter of its own weight? In fact, the Inca culture relied on llamas to transport the wealth around the Inca empire.
If you want to see the llamas, head to the Andean mountain range, where most of them live in the Bolivian highlands. You can also find them in Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, and of course, Peru. Alpaca is found mainly in central and southern Peru, but can also be found in Chile, Ecuador, and Bolivia; in the Andes (in fact, the alpaca - originally from Peru - can be found throughout South America; as well as in those parts of the world where they have alpaca breeding places). Llamas can also be found in the historic ruins of Machu Picchu; They are quite photogenic and are used to tourists, so you can end up with more photos than all the ones on the page.
There are two species of wild camelids in South America that you should know about: The guanaco and vicuña; It is believed that the Incas raised the llamas because they were descendants of the untamable Guanacos and the vicuña's alpaca. Guanacos and wild vicuñas live in the highlands of the Andes; you may see a couple while traveling.
The vicuña is closer to the alpaca, it is small, thin; similar to deer, they weigh less than 68kg and measure between 75 to 85cm in back.
Vicuñas are not as tame as llamas or alpacas. They are normally established in semi-arid areas of the altiplano, between 3,500m and 5,800m.
They usually do not weigh more than 40kgs, and the flames do not have the size of their cousins.
It is known for its super soft fur and for producing the most sought-after fabric fiber in the world; the amount that comes out per year is not much, about a pound (which makes it much more difficult to get).
However, the animal that was previously protected by the Incas, is under threat; everything changed since the Spanish conquest, when they started hunting animals for their wool. Fortunately, today, due to declining numbers in 1960, hunting for vicuña is prohibited. What is allowed is to shave a certain amount once a year (releasing them later).
The guanaco is the small version of the llama and shares characteristics such as a thick coat of fur on the outside and a thinner one underneath. They weigh 90kg, it is bigger than the vicuña.
It has a rather peculiar color, with a brown back, a gray belly and a gray face. Llamas, on the other hand, have a variety of colors. The guanaco also has small ears that are stopped; like the vicuña, the guanaco is also protected, although due to its thick fur, it has not been so desired, therefore, it has not experienced popularity problems.
Guanacos acclimatize both to desert and hot environments and to humid and cold areas. However, you will not find them at heights above 4,000m.
It can reach 120kgs, and the wingspan is similar to that of the llama, larger than the common nickel silver. Its coat is fine and it has a lot of wool.
Where to find it? In Patagonia (Argentina). They are also found in Ecuador, Colombia, Tierra del Fuego, and even in the Atacama Desert. Guanacos can live with little water at high altitudes.
Peru is home to 80% of the alpacas in the world, its luxurious wool is exported internationally and the textile industry is one of the longest sectors in Peru.
Before spending all your money, it is a good idea to look at the different types of fabrics; This way you will know which to choose.
The flame has two layers, a fairly thick and rough top commonly used for rugs, carpets, ropes and wall decoration. The top layer also serves to protect the soft, wavy bottom layer that is used for the finest garments. Processing the Llama fabric is considered a difficult process due to the large difference between the lower soft layer and the upper thick layer, and the need to separate the soft from the thick fabric.
Vicuña fabric is considered the best in the world. Fairly fine, smooth and of superior quality (just as superior to the price!). In fact, in ancient times, only Inca royalty could dress Vicuña, being considered a sacred animal. Today, it is still a rare creature and produces so little fabric that it makes wool even more exclusive.
The Guanaco fabric is considered superior to the Llama fabric; it is much easier to process. Guanaco also has two layers; with a thin and light coat, a light caramel color.
Which brings us to the Alpaca, which has a fairly dense and leafy coat that needs to be shaved in the summer due to the heat. The fabric it produces is fine, tough, durable, soft, light, luxurious, thermal, and hypoallergenic. There are two subspecies of alpacas that are worth mentioning since both fabrics differ. The Alpaca Huacaya is fluffy and has a fur similar to that of sheep; which produces shorter fabric. Whereas, the Alpaca Suri has a longer coat and produces a longer fabric. (Note: Suri is the least common subspecies, so Suri-based products are more expensive)
Baby alpaca is a TYPE of Alpaca fiber; It is not the fabric of a newborn alpaca! It receives its name because it is the first shave of an alpaca, when it is less than a year old, from the lower neck to the abdomen. It is at this point that the coat is at its finest, lightest and softest stage; between 21 to 23 microns in diameter (a super fine nickel silver cloth is 24 to 26 microns). Since baby alpaca fiber is so expensive, it is commonly mixed with others (such as sheep's wool).
It is a category of baby alpaca, with fabric less than 20 microns.
Alpaca fabric is much softer, lighter and more resistant than sheep wool and cashmere wool. Lanolin free, unlike sheep wool, which means it maintains fewer allergens, bacteria and dust; nor does it cause itching on the skin. There are more than 22 natural colors, with shades between white, black, gray and brown.
Alpaca fabric has the advantage of being more ecological compared to goat wool; not only because alpacas consume less water than a goat, but they produce enough wool for four or five sweaters a year. Whereas, by comparison, it takes 4 goats to produce enough wool for one sweater per year.
Many clothes and accessories, blankets and even cute toys. The most popular items are sweaters and ponchos. They come in different sizes, qualities, and colors. It is a perfect keepsake to take home.
In any artisan market, Peruvian or Bolivian, you will find llama and alpaca products. There is a market in Pisac (one hour from Cusco) that is very frequented by indigenous people who are looking to sell their merchandise. If you are in Lima, then visit the Inka Market. There are other more luxurious stores such as Sol Alpaca and Kuna.
Products mixed with Alpaca (not 100% pure) are, of course, cheaper. Looking to pay from $ 10 onwards for scarves and sweaters.
An alpaca sweater can be between 60 USD to 80 USD (you can find them at 200 USD approx. In stores like Sol Alpaca or Kuna).
A baby alpaca sweater can be at least $ 80. Smaller things (hats, gloves, scarves, stockings, etc.) are cheaper.