Peru has not only some of the best mountain landscapes in the world. But also the biodiversity living it is just unbelievable. Can you believe close relatives of the famous Sahara desert camel (Africa) live in another distant continent like South America? The Peruvian Andes host 4 relatives of the famous Egyptian camel; the llamas, the vicunas, the alpacas, and the guanacos. And among them, llamas and alpacas are very popular. For this reason, together with the experts from Machu Travel Peru, we have prepared a small article about the difference between llamas and alpacas. And let yourself be surprised by these fantastic animals, similar at first sight!
All you need to know about the alpaca vs llamas in Peru
Before knowing the difference between llamas and alpacas, it is necessary to know what a llama or an alpaca is. We’ll begin by saying that the llamas are domesticated South American camelids from the mountainous areas of the Andes. They are big, strong, and have thick wool. Usually, they were used as guard animals for other farm ones like guinea pigs (Cuy), alpacas, and Vicunas among others. Besides being used as pack animals (due to their strength) For these reasons, they are more surly with humans.
Note apart is the use of its wool to make clothes for winter. Also, these animals are in every corner of the Historical Center of Cusco. They keep company with Cusco women, who are dressed in a typical Andean dress. These women with their llamas wander by the Cusco center street and offer to pose for spirited cameras of tourists. Of course, you will listen to the famous phrase: “One picture, one dollar”.
On the other hand, we have the alpacas. These are the domesticated version of a vicuña, another ruminant animal native to the Andean regions. The alpacas are smallest and finer than the llamas. For this reason, they are not used as animals pack. Also, they are very comfortable with humans around them and have truly warm and affectionate personalities. 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.
Moreover, its fibers of wool are of incomparable quality, much better than the llamas. However, these are below the Vicuna wool (Regarding the quality). In addition, alpaca fiber comes in a great variety of tones. Also, 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.
Also, the alpacas as pets can cost around 250 Euros in the case of male alpaca and 350 Euros for females. However, specialized breeders can sell well-documented and fed specimens for fertile offspring for 1000 euros (males) and 2500 euros (females)
10 differences between llamas and alpacas
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. We can mention 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. For all these reasons, alpaca vs llamas don’t have any bond in common. The llamas are cousins of Guanacos (and are more related to them). On the other side, the alpacas are more related to the Vicuñas (some researchers even claim that they descend from them)
Also, the main difference between llamas and alpacas is their size (besides their wool). While llama is the biggest (approx. 400 pounds weight) and 117 cm large. Alpaca has only 180 pounds weight and is 90 cm large approx. Also, the wool of first is rougher than the fine alpaca wool.
Usually, the llama has banana-sized ears. A much longer face and snout. However, less hair. (Slightly rougher appearance). While the alpaca ears are short with pointed shapes. Also, they are much prettier and have more tender faces with thick fur and blunt noses. (Much softer)
In this case, an average llama has 280 to 450 pounds of weight. They are relatively larger than alpacas (106 to 117 centimeters extra). Instead, the alpacas have 106 to 185 pounds of weight. (48 to 84 kilograms). In this sense, alpacas are shorter than llamas (86 to 92 centimeters in height). If you take any of the Machu Picchu tours, you will notice this difference. Since you will find llamas and alpacas grazing together in the green areas of the citadel.
Llamas wool has much thicker, and it is not usually suitable for garment production. Also, they don’t have Instead, the alpacas offer much more profitable when it comes to producing quality wool (Fine fiber). They have much more fleece in a wide variety of colors. White, black, brown, red, and light tones. Also, they have more hair on the head and body than llamas.
Usually, the coat of alpacas has a uniform color along the body. And their tonalities go around 22 variants, from black, white, pinto, roan, brown, gray, fawn, rose, and even red. The opposite case is one of the llamas, their coat comes in various shades of a wide range of colors and spotted patterns along entire the body like brown, beige, red, black, white, and grey. In this form, a llama can present more than two colors in its body. These various shades of both species contrast better with the green background of the Machu Picchu mountain. Where you can appreciate them better, if you take the tour of the famous Inca citadel, of course.
Llamas and alpacas had to cover themselves from the gelid weather condition of the Andean highlands for years. In this form, they developed copious coats (wool) along the entire body to protect them from the cold. In this sense, the alpaca has fleece finer, thicker, and softer than the llama (around 18-30 microns) This fiber is excellent for producing clothes of the highest quality like sweaters, jackets, caps, and scarves among others. Highlights the variety “Huacaya”, which has a fleece fluffy and crimpy, similar to Teddy bears.
There are other varieties, the “Suri” alpaca with the longest and brightest fleece. Instead, the llama has a fleece similar to human hair, (50-65 microns) and these are not adequate to produce clothes, except the fleece of a baby llama (under 30 microns) But, shearing a baby llama, which needs more protection against the cold than other ones, is not a common practice in Peru.
In this aspect, the llamas are much more independent animals and more strong than alpacas, with a well-defined character and a little less sociable than alpacas. Therefore, they are used as guards (for other farm animals) and pack animals. The alpacas on the other hand are herd animals and are much more friendly with humans but need more protection. By nature, they are more skittish but submissive, and social, perfect to be considered pets.
Both South American camelids spit as a sign of defense or irritability. The spit can contain air with saliva from the mouth (more frequently used by alpacas) or it can contain contents stomach, regurgitated and stinky (in the case of the llamas)
Alpacas, being more sociable than llamas, spit less. Also, it is very easy to recognize the nervousness or irritability of one of them. In those cases, walk away immediately!
The difference between alpaca vs llamas is not reflected in the coexistence area. Since both specimens live in the mountainous regions of Cusco, Puno, and Arequipa. However, 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 good photos with you and their llamas and alpacas, in every corner of the historic center. Of course, all of these for a small fee, “One picture, one dollar”.
Also, you can find them when you visit Machu Picchu and in almost all the Incas archaeological parks in Cusco. On the other hand, If you want to see large herds in their natural ambient, take the Lares or Ausangate treks in the Cusco regions. The National Reserves in Peru, like Pampa Galeras, is another good opportunity to see these animals in the Ayacucho region (center of Peru) If you take a bus from Cusco to Lima, you will pass by here.
Although both can be considered South American camelids or Auchenids. Alpacas and llamas have different origins. Llamas originated in the North American central plains more than 5000 years ago, next they emigrated to the south of the continent due to the Great American Interchange. Instead, the alpacas descended from their South American cousins, the vicuñas, in about the same period of time.
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 to being used for their wool and their meat. Believe it or not, alpaca meat is one of the most exclusive ingredients in the highest Novo Andean restaurant in Peru. Nowadays, 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 of your trip to Peru. While llamas have been raised primarily as pack and guard animals. Since the Inca’s time, the llamas proved resistant and strong to carry very heavy objects like large clay pots, and copper and silver objects to far away destinations. The llama can carry a quarter of their own weight. Besides this, the strong personality of llamas made them perfect animals to guard other animals like alpacas, guineas pick (Cuy), and other Andean barnyard animals.
10. Types of 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. The producers export it 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 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.
Awanacancha is the most known South American camel farm located 23 km northeast of Cusco. There, you’ll enjoy 4 South American camel types, like the llamas, alpacas, guanacos, and vicunas. The gigantographies of each camelid species are well described by means of legends (English and Spanish). So it is not necessary to visit it with guides.
You will be able to see the evolutionary process of camelids throughout South America, specifically in Peru. In addition, you will be able to learn about the process of extracting wool from these animals, the elaboration of tissues, and the coloring. And the making of sweaters, caps, and jackets, among others. The best of all is that you will be able to interact directly with them (you will be able to feed them). Since you are used to human contact.
The entrance is free! However, it is a moral obligation to leave a tip for the food of the camelids, as well as to pay for the maintenance of the farm and its veterinarians.
“ADVENTURE YOU SAY? ALPACA MY BAGS!”
There is no doubt that the difference between llamas and alpacas is minimal. But, don’t worry 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. Together with the experts from Machu Travel Peru, we hope we have been of help. Remember, 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!