Differences between llama and alpaca

The llama and the alpaca are native animals of the Andes and very important for the countries of the region. Due to the hybridization and near extinction of the South American camelids during the Spanish invasion, the true ones were not known with certainty for many years. origins of the llama, the alpaca and other animals that belong to the same family. Although these origins have already been clarified, it is normal to want to know what the differences between llama and alpa due to their apparent similarities.

In this AnimalWised article, we will see that to really know the distinction between alpaca and llama, it is essential to know their respective Andean relatives: the vicuña and guanaco.

You may also be interested: What is the name of the Egyptian cat god? Index
  1. South American camelids: what they are and types
  2. Similarities between llama and alpaca
  3. Difference between llama and alpaca
  4. Characteristics of alpacas (Vicugna pacos)
  5. Characteristics of llamas (Lama glama)
  6. Characteristics of vicuñas (Vicugna vicugna)
  7. Characteristics of the guanacos (Lama guanicoe)
  8. A curiosity about the South American camelids

South American camelids: what they are and types

According to the article 'Systematics, taxonomy and domestication of alpacas and llamas: new chromosomal and molecular tests ', published in the Revista Chilena de Historia Natural [1], in South America there are 4 species of South American camelids, two of which they are wild and two have been domesticated. They are as follows:

  • Guanaco (Lama guanicoe).
  • Call (Lama glama).
  • Vicuña (Vicugna vicugna).
  • Alpaca (Vicugna pacos).

In this way, as we see, both llama and alpaca are South American camelids, one of the reasons why it is difficult to tell a llama from an alpaca. In fact, as we will see below, despite the physical similarity and popularity, a llama is much more similar to a guanaco, just as the alpaca is more similar to a vicuña, than the similarities that we can find between llama and alpaca..

Similarities between llama and alpaca

In addition to the physical similarities they have in common, the confusion between llama and alpaca it is more than understandable, since they both belong to the same Camelidae family, which is also the same as camels, dromedaries, vicuñas and guanacos: they are all mammals ruminant artiodactyls. Because of this, it is normal for us to wonder what the difference is between a llama and an alpaca. Before answering this question, let's consider how the two animals are alike..

Some common aspects that can make us confuse llama and alpaca are:

  • Common habitat.
  • They are herbivorous animals.
  • They go in herd.
  • Docile temperament.
  • They spit when they are angry.
  • Physical appearance.
  • Soft fur.

For all this, it is understandable that it is difficult for us to know what the difference is between llama and alpaca.

Difference between llama and alpaca

The main difference between llama and alpaca is the fact that they are made of different species: Lama glama and Vicuña pacos. The origin of llamas and alpacas is a controversial topic among scholars. As we have already explained, the high rate of hybridization made the study of species very difficult. Despite the similarities, according to the article cited from the Revista Chilena de Historia Natural [2], in fact, genetically speaking, the guanacos are closer to llamas, while vicuñas are closer to alpacas at the chromosomal and taxonomic level.

Alpaca vs. call

Even so, without having to look at the DNA, there are some clearly noticeable differences between the alpaca and the llama:

  • Size: an alpaca is clearly smaller than a llama. The same goes for weight, llamas are heavier than alpacas.
  • Neck- Keep in mind that llamas have a longer neck than alpacas and can exceed the size of an adult human.
  • Ears: while llamas have long, pointed ears, alpacas have rather rounded ears.
  • Snout: alpacas have a longer and more protruding snout than llamas.
  • Fur: llama wool is rougher.
  • Personality- Alpacas are more shy around humans, while llamas are known to be outgoing and even "daring".

You may also find this other article interesting about The 35 cutest animals in the world.

Characteristics of alpacas (Vicugna pacos)

It is estimated that the domestication of the alpaca began 6,000 to 7,000 years ago in the Peruvian Andes. Today it can be found in Chile, Andean Bolivia and Peru, where its largest population is found. These are some of the characteristics of the alpaca:

  • Have been domesticated.
  • They are smaller than the flame.
  • They have 22 shades of colors that go from white to black (through brown and gray).
  • Soft and long coat.

An alpaca is clearly smaller than a flame, since it measures between 1.20 m and 1.50 m and can weigh up to 90 kg. Unlike the llama, the alpaca is not used as a pack animal. However, the wool of the alpaca also drives the local economy today and its fur is considered "more valuable" than that of the llama..

As in the case of llamas, alpacas are also known for the spitting reaction to defend themselves, even though they are docile animals.. Huacaya and Suri are the two races of Vicugna Pacos and are differentiated by the type of coat.

Now that you know that alpacas are domestic animals in these areas of Latin America, you may also be interested in this other article about 12 animals of Patagonia.

Characteristics of llamas (Lama glama)

The flame, in turn, is the largest camelid in South America and can weigh up to 150 kg. Bolivia is currently the country with the highest concentration of llamas, but they can also be found in Argentina, Chile, Peru and Ecuador. The flame characteristics are:

  • It is the largest camelid in South America.
  • They can measure up to 1.40 m and weigh up to 150 kg.
  • It has been domesticated.
  • Long, woolly coat.
  • The color of its wool varies from white to dark brown.

Studies estimate that at least 6,000 years ago, the llama was already a domestic animal in the Andes for the Incas (for the transport of cargo and wool production), moved the local economy and accompanied the royal armies, which contributed to its distribution throughout the region. To this day, their long, woolly fur in colors ranging from white to dark brown is a source of survival for local families in these regions..

Like alpacas, they feed on bushes, grass, and hay. Despite its calm and docile temperament, can be easily irritated and sneeze with mucus as a defense.

Characteristics of vicuñas (Vicugna vicugna)

Despite not being related, there are those who also confuse vicuñas with North American antelopes (Antilocapra americana), due to their appearance, size and way of walking. They usually go in packs made up of relatives or males. It is rare to see a vicuña roaming alone, but when seen, they are generally single males with no herd. These are the characteristics of vicuñas:

  • It is the smallest camelid, measuring a maximum of 1.30 m and weighing up to 40 kg.
  • They have a reddish-brown coloration on the back, while the belly and thigh are white. His face is also clearer.
  • Their teeth resemble those of rodents.
  • They have deeply divided hooves.
  • They are wild animals.

According to a study published by Cristián Bonacic [3], among the camelids of the Andes, the vicuña is the camelid smaller (Measures a maximum of 1.30 m in height with a maximum weight of 40 kg). In addition to its size, another characteristic that differentiates it from the species of its family is its more deeply divided hooves, which allow it to move quickly and agilely over the slopes and common loose stones of the puna, its habitat. Its teeth, which resemble those of rodents, also differentiate it from other species. It is with your help that I feed on shrubs and grasses close to the ground.

It habitually inhabits Andean regions (central Peru, western Bolivia, northern Chile and northwestern Argentina) that are located at 4,600 meters above sea level. Its fine fur is known to be a excellent quality wool that protects it from the cold of the region, but also has a high commercial value since the pre-Columbian era.

The vicuña is a camelid that has already been at high risk of extinction due to its illegal hunting. But in addition to man, dogs, pumas and Andean foxes are some of its most common predators..

Characteristics of the guanacos (Lama guanicoe)

The guanaco can be seen in arid and semi-arid environments in South America (Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia, Chile, Argentina) at an altitude of 5,200 meters. Currently, Peru is the country where it is most commonly found. The guanaco characteristics are:

  • It is the largest wild artiodactyl in South America.
  • It measures up to 1.30 m and can weigh up to 90 kg.
  • Their fur can be different shades of brown with a white belly and chest..
  • His face is gray.
  • Usually has raised ears.
  • His eyes are big and brown.
  • Their fur is shorter than the previous animals.
  • It's a wild animal.

Compared to the rest of the animals described in this article, the guanaco is distinguished by having a shorter coat, but also for its small, pointed ears and its striking brown eyes. Another highlight of the Lama Guanicoe is its energetic way of walking and the fact that it can go up to 4 days without water..

A curiosity about the South American camelids

They all defecate and urinate in 'heaps of community garbage cans ' of his herd or another nearby, which can measure 30 cm thick and 4 m in diameter. At an ecological level, it is known that in the place where these animals defecate and urinate, after the rainy season, a bright green vegetation grows that stands out in the aridity of the puna.

Leave Your Comment

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here