…of Llamas and Alpacas
Some of the common questions we are asked at The Llama Sanctuary regarding llamas and alpacas:
Q. Are llamas and alpacas related?
A. Yes. Llamas and alpacas are both members of the camelid family and they both claim origin from South America.
Q. Can Llamas and alpacas interbreed?
A. Yes. This is sometimes done to improve fiber quality or body shape.
Q. What’s the difference between a llama and an alpaca?
A. There are several significant differences, although to anyone unfamiliar with either creature, these differences may not be readily apparent. The differences can also be subtle in animals where interbreeding has taken place. Even experienced breeders might scratch their heads in some cases!
- Alpacas ears are USUALLY smooth, short, straight and pointed. Llamas ears are frequently, but not always, longer and curved. The ear tips can be bent over and they might be very fluffy!
- Llamas are generally taller and up to twice the weight of an alpaca.
- The pelvis of an alpacs appears to be curved, giving the spine a more rounded look and the tail is tucked in. Llamas have long straight backs, which makes them suitable as pack animals. They also stroll around with their tails ‘cocked’.
- Alpaca fiber is generally very different. There is a greater density of fibers which gives the coat a spongy feel. The llama coat generally has long guard hair, which flows in the breeze. There is little difference in the fineness (micron count) between the llama and alpaca.
Q. Is alpaca fiber better than llama fiber?
A. No. You can have really fine and beautiful llama fleece and you can have really coarse alpaca fleece. Fiber quality varies according to the age, health, environment and genes of the animal. However, as a rule, alpaca fiber is easier to work with and it doesn’t attract the hay and other vegetation that a fine llama fleece will pick up.
Q. Are alpacas easier to handle than llamas?
A. In our experience, alpacas are slightly more difficult to work with, since they are more nervous and flighty. This can be changed by good training and handling practices, but llamas tend to be somewhat calmer.
Alpacas DO spit more than llamas though! They spit first and ask questions later.