Alpacas and llamas are both members of the camel family, and it can be difficult for people who aren’t familiar with them to tell them apart.
However, once you are aware of a few key features, you will be able to tell them apart easily.
Here’s how to tell the difference between an alpaca and a llama.
Quick Reference: Difference Between Alpacas and Llamas
For quick reference, here’s a summary of the key differences between the two animals:
|Size||About 5 feet tall and 125-200 pounds||About 6 feet tall and 300-450 pounds|
|Face||Fluffy fur on face, with a compact, short nose||Less hair on the face, with a long face and nose|
|Ears||Short, spear-shaped, upright ears||Longer, rabbit-shaped, upright ears|
|Body||Curved back with a tail that slopes down||Flatback extends to the tail|
|Fur||Fine, soft, single-coated fur||Double-coated fur with long, coarse outer hair|
|Disposition||Curious and shy||Confident and independent|
Differences Between Alpacas and Llamas
Both llamas and alpacas are members of the camel family and have been domesticated by people for thousands of years.
It is precisely that domestication that has led to the key differences between the two species because llamas were bred and kept as pack animals, and alpacas were bred and raised for fiber.
Llamas are bigger than alpacas, standing about 6 feet tall at the ears, and weighing up to 450 pounds.
Alpacas are shorter, averaging 5 feet tall at the ears, and weighing up to 200 pounds
Llamas have faces that resemble camel faces, with long downward curving noses, and less hair on their faces.
Alpacas have short, forward-facing noses, with more hair on their faces, and more closely resemble sheep.
Both animals have upright ears, but llamas ears are longer, more rabbit-like. Alpacas have shorter, triangular ears.
Llamas have long, flatbacks with tails right at the end of their spines. Alpacas have curved backs with tails that tuck down
Llamas have a double coat, with a soft undercoat and long, coarse outer hair.
Alpacas are single-coated, with soft, curly hair.
Both animals are herd animals that need to be around others of their kind in order to be healthy.
Llamas are confident and independent. They have become popular guard animals, often kept with sheep and goats, because they will intimidate and fight predators who threaten their herd.
Llamas are constantly competing among each other for status within their herd, so they don’t make great pets.
When llamas are raised with too much handling and familiarity with people, they tend to “compete” with people for herd status, becoming pushy and difficult at adolescence and adulthood (but not actually threatening or dangerous).
Alpacas are intelligent and curious, but also shy and easily intimidated.
They are easily trained to walk on a halter and do simple tricks and make great pets.
Because alpacas tend to go to the bathroom in the same place, they are also easily trained to use a litter box or go outside.
Alpaca fur contains no lanolin, the oil in sheep wool that often triggers sensitivities, so it is hypoallergenic, and is very high-quality wool.
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ALPACA VS LLAMA FAQ
Do llamas or alpacas spit?
Both llamas and alpacas spit as a defense mechanism when they are threatened.
Can alpacas breed with llamas?
Yes, alpacas and llamas can breed with each other. In fact, a cross between a male llama and a female alpaca is called a huarizo.
As you might expect, huarizos are between llamas and alpacas in size, and have longer, softer hair than a llama, but not as soft as an alpaca.
Can llama spit hurt you?
Llama spit is extremely unpleasant, but not physically painful. When llamas and alpacas “spit” at danger, they aren’t actually spitting saliva; they are spitting their stomach contents at the threat.
Because these animals are ruminants, their stomachs tend to have a lot of partially digested and fermented food, which smells awful and has a lingering smell that is hard to get rid of.
Studies suggest that the more upset a llama is, the deeper into their stomachs the spit comes from, so it smells even worse, and llamas can spit up to about 15 feet. But, while you certainly don’t want to get spit on, it can’t actually harm you.
Are alpacas good pets?
When alpacas are treated well and raised with lots of human contacts, they are excellent pets.
They are naturally curious and intelligent and can be trained to walk with a halter and even be trained to go to the bathroom in a specific place, like a cat.
Alpacas are fairly easy to care for, get along well with other animals, and have fur that is naturally hypoallergenic, so they are becoming very popular pets.