Peru not only has some of the best mountains on the planet, but also a natural beauty that rivals the best landscapes in the world. The Peruvian Andes mountain range has some spectacular and imposing peaks, surely some of the best you can see. A characteristic of the Peruvian highlands is the different native animals of the area. And among them are the popular llamas and alpacas that you should know on any trip to Peru. And for this reason, together with the experts from Machu Travel Peru, we have prepared a small article about the llamas and alpacas that you can find in Peru.
All you need to know about the llamas and alpacas in Peru
- Llama, the Andean camelid
- Alpaca, the domestic camelid
- Main differences between llamas and alpacas
- Where do they come from
- Location of llamas and alpacas in Peru
- Purpose of these animals
- Guanacos and Vicuñas
- Animal wool fabrics
Llama, the Andean camelid
Before you can differentiate between llamas and alpacas, it is necessary to know what a llama is. And fortunately, to define these animals you do not have to go into ambiguous terms. Llamas are domesticated animals from the mountainous areas of the Andes. They are descendants of the camelid family, that is, the well-known camels. Llamas have gone through thousands of years of domestication, so they are used to the presence of humans.
The llama utility in Inca times
Llamas were bred and intended to be pack animals. Also, they are excellent guardians of alpacas and a hundred other animals. But despite that, they were also used for their wool. Although its wool is of a much heavier fiber, it is used for other reasons. They are quite intelligent and are very easy to train compared to dogs. Within the different Machu Picchu tours, you will be guaranteed the view of numerous llamas grazing the Inca site.
Alpaca, the domestic camelid
The alpaca is the domesticated version of a vicuña, another ruminant animal native to the Andean regions. Like the llamas, this is a descendant of camelids. They are very comfortable with humans around them and have a truly warm and affectionate personality, therefore they live domesticated by humans, and you won’t find them in the wild. This is why many end up raising them as pets.
The alpaca utility today
Nowadays, raising alpacas has a great number of economic and productive benefits. Its fibers of wool are of incomparable quality and come in a great variety of tones. In addition, its meat can also be used. In recent years, alpaca meat has gained quite a bit of popularity and has become one of the key ingredients in many Novo Andean Peruvian food dishes.
Main differences between llamas and alpacas
The main differences between both are the size and their wools. While the Llama is the biggest (approx. 400 pounds weight) and 117 cm large. The Alpaca has only 180 pounds weight and is 90 cm large approx. Also, the wool of first is rougher than the fine Alpaca wool.
|– Banana-shaped ears.|
– Much longer face and snout. However, less hair. (Slightly rougher appearance)
|– Short ears with pointed shapes.|
– Much prettier and more tender face with thick fur and blunt noses. (Much softer)
|– 280 to 450 pounds or 127 to 2014 kilograms of weight. They are relatively larger than alpacas (106 to 117 centimeters)||– 106 to 185 pounds of weight. (48 to 84 kilograms). Alpacas are shorter than llamas (86 to 92 centimeters in height)|
|– It is much thicker and it is not usually suitable for garment production.|
– Generally, just one type of color. Cream, white, red, brown within those shades.
– Do not have much hair on the head and face.
|– Much more profitable when it comes to producing quality wool (Fine fiber)|
– Much more fleece in a wide variety of colors. White, black, brown, red, and light tones.
– More hair in the head and body than llama.
|– Much more independent animals. More strong than alpacas.|
– Stronger character. They are coming to be used as guard animals.
|– Herd animals, are much more social and need more protection.|
– More skittish, submissive, and friendly.
Despite the great resemblance between these Peruvian animals, there are a few differences between llamas and alpacas. In order to differentiate between them, several physical characteristics must be taken into account to observe: their facial features, their size and height, and the texture of their fur inter alia. Although, the variety goes far beyond their physical characteristics. Both llamas and alpacas have different personalities and temperaments. So you can expect many attributes of each of these wonderful animals.
Where do they come from
The ancient people of South America domesticated llamas and alpacas for thousands of years. These animals were used both for transportation and for the production of fleece and are especially prevalent in the regions of Bolivia and highlands of Peru, like Puno, Ayacucho, Sacred Valley, Machu Picchu mountain inter alia. They are part of the Camels or Camelidae family. The other two species of lamoids are guanaco and vicuña that also inhabit these regions. And between these four there are very clear physical differences; size, hair, face, and another.
Location of llamas and alpacas in Peru
If you dream of seeing these beautiful and friendly animals in their native environment, then you will have to visit the mountainous regions of Cusco, Puno, and Arequipa. If you want to see large herds in their nature ambient, take the Lares or Ausangate treks in the Cusco regions. The National Reserve of Pampa Galeras is another good opportunity to see these animals in the Ayacucho region (center of Peru). There, the visitor will see large herds of vicuñas.
However, don’t worry, you don’t have to go far to see them. If you stay in Cusco city and like to take photos, some local women in traditional costumes, accompanied by llamas and alpacas, are available to take her a good photo or selfie with her llamas, alpaca, and you in all moments. Of course, all of these for a small fee.
Awanacancha, llama and alpaca farm
Not far from Cusco city is the naturally wonderful Sacred Valley of the Incas. The valley was used by the Incas for agricultural and ceremonial purposes. Its weather is unbeatable and there are located many cultural attractions like the Pisac, Ollantaytambo, Chinchero archaeological parks. Therefore, while in the Sacred Valley visit Awanacancha, a working llama and alpaca farm.
Here you will see the wool being processed and woven into fabric and knitted into garments, besides of history and genealogy of the camelid family in South America and their coexistence with ancient South American cultures like the Incas. Of course, you will have to pay a little fee for the entrance, but all it is for a good cause, the proceeds of Awanacancha go to the local communities surrounding the Sacred Valley.
As you can see, these are excellent places to appreciate these beautiful animals.
Find Them In Machu Picchu
The mountainous regions of Peru were once home to the fabulous Inca Empire. And this is reflected in the many ancient sites that can be found in these areas. Among the many sites available, thousands of tourists come to Peru every year to visit Machu Picchu. The Incas ancient citadel is surrounded by mystery and unsolved questions.
This is because scientists and archaeologists are still unsure of the purpose of the beautiful citadel. Just as puzzling is why the site was abandoned after only one hundred years of inhabiting it. However, nowadays, there are living creatures who resisted leaving Machu Picchu, despite their owners, if they did. And, today, you can see them along with the open spaces, corridors of Incas citadel.
Purpose of these animals
For more than 5000 years, alpacas were used for the clear purpose of fiber rearing. These animals (really the most attractive of the two) came being used for their wool and their meat (believe it or not, the alpaca meat is one of the most exclusive ingredients in the highest Novo Andean restaurant in Peru)
In addition to the delicious meat that appears on the menu of the classic fine restaurants of Peruvian food across the country. Many Peruvian companies have taken advantage of the fineness of alpaca wool and have set up clothing companies. In these, you can buy clothes made especially of fine wool. An alpaca garment is something that will last forever and be a good memory on your trip to Peru.
While llamas have been raised primarily as pack and guard animals. Since the Incas time, the llamas proved resistant and strong to carry very heavy objects like large clay pots, copper and silver objects. Besides this, the strong personality of llamas made them perfect animals to guard other animals like alpacas, guineas picks, and other Andean barnyard animals.
Guanacos and vicuñas
The llamas and alpacas have distant cousins, not so well known to people. We are talking about the guanacos and the vicuñas. These wild species are also found around Peru and South America in general.
|Guanacos are usually smaller than llamas but larger than alpacas. Much of them are wild and often live in the south of Peru and the high regions of Chile and Argentina. It is believed that they are close ancestors of the contemporary llama that we can appreciate today.|
The guanaco has fine bones and black fur on the head. In opposite, their belly and legs are covered with lighter fur. These are some of the few camelids that can drink salt water without any problem! Also, their wool is highly valued abroad, not as much as vicuña wool, but enough to breed them in captivity.
|Vicuñas are wild and undomesticated relatives of the charismatic alpaca. This is much smaller than its cousin. In addition, vicuñas were until recently considered an endangered species in most countries. You can still find many places where these animals are protected in Nature Reserves, like Pampas Galeras in the Ayacucho district of Peru, and are considered a threatened species.|
But, Why? Because they have very valuable fibers. For this reason, vicuña wool is highly valued in the textile and fashion industries. Most of their fibers are exported abroad. Wool is used all over the world, especially in the high fashion industry. And it is one of the best textile qualities you will find.
Animal wool fabrics
The vast majority of alpacas in the world live in the magical country of Peru. And with the extensive biodiversity in Peru, it is not surprising that 80% of these camelids call our country home. One of the most precious goods is alpaca wool, exported internationally to the whole world. And it is thanks to this that the textile industry flourishes within Peru.
And when we talk about quality alpaca products, there is no better place than Peru. This is not to mention that by buying any of the available products, you will be benefiting some various Andean communities that breed them in captivity. These communities earn their living by raising the different alpacas, either for their meat or their wool.
Fortunately, there are several types of wool fabrics. Next, you will see them.
- Llama fabric: The llama has two main layers. The top layer is usually very rough and thick. This layer often protects the bottom layer, which is quite soft. So this layer is very useful to make rugs, ropes, rugs, and some other decorations. In opposition, The bottom layer is often used for fine, quality garments. However, since both layers are so different, they are frequently very difficult fabrics to process.
- Guanaco fabric: Guanaco, like the llama, has two layers, and it is considered a higher quality fabric than llama fabric. This is because it is much simpler to treat and soft to the touch.
- Alpaca fabric: Alpaca cloth is one of the most desired in the world market. Because it is thin, resistant, durable, thermal, soft, and hypoallergenic among other characteristics.
- Baby Alpaca fabric: This is a kind of alpaca cloth, it does not mean that it comes from an infant alpaca. It has this name because it is the first shave of an alpaca. It is usually done when the alpaca is one year old or less. During this time, the alpaca’s coat is frequently finer. Therefore, this kind of wool is highly demanded in the high fashion industry around the world.
- Vicuña fabric: Vicuña cloth is recognized as one of the best in the world. It is quite smooth, fine, and of exceeding quality. It is even said that only the Inca royalty could wear the vicuña cloth. Today, due to being a threatened species, it remains a rare fabric. Making it even more exclusive than the alpaca.
“ADVENTURE YOU SAY? ALPACA MY BAGS!”
There is no doubt that between llamas and alpacas, there are many similarities that make it difficult to differentiate them. But once you can appreciate them, you will notice their notable differences. From their height to their facial features, many things make each of these animals unique. For this reason, spend your next vacation visiting Peru, the wonderful native animals of the country are the highlight of any visit.
Not only is it great to see them, but the people of Peru are warm and friendly, too. And they are waiting to welcome you with a warm smile and open arms. Together with the experts from Machu Travel Peru, we hope we have been of help. Remember that if you need to know about our different tours in Peru, you can consult with our team of qualified advisers. We will be waiting for your visit soon!