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 are 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.
The ancient people of South America used llamas and alpacas for thousands of years. Llamas and alpacas were used both for transportation and for the production of fleece. Both species are especially prevalent in the regions of Bolivia and Peru. They are part of the Camels or Camelidae family. Both llamas and alpacas are two of the four species of lamoids. Guanaco and Vicuña are the other two species that also inhabit our regions. And between these four there are very clear physical differences. From their size, hair and face differ between one species and another. Therefore, we will try to differentiate these two known species from our country.
All you need to know about the Llamas and Alpacas in Peru
- What is a Llama?
- What is an Alpaca?
- Main differences between llamas and alpacas
- Where to find llamas and alpacas in Peru?
- Purpose of these animals
- Guanacos and Vicuñas
- Animal fabrics
WHAT IS A LLAMA?
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.
Llamas were bred and intended to be pack animals. Although when they weren’t carrying items, they were also good guard animals. They are excellent guardians of alpacas, chickens, and a hundred other animals. But despite that, they were also used for their wool. Although its wool is of a much heavier fiber, so 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.
WHAT IS AN ALPACA?
The Alpaca is the domesticated version of a vicuña, another ruminant animal native to the Andean regions. Like the Llamas, the Alpaca is a descendant of camelids. Alpacas are domesticated animals, so you won’t find them in the wild. They are very comfortable with humans around them. Alpacas have a truly warm and affectionate personalities. This is why many end up raising them as pets. But raising Alpacas has a great number of economic and productive benefits.
The fibers of Alpaca wool are of incomparable quality. And the fibers of the Alpaca come in a great variety of tones, avoiding dyeing its fibers. In addition, its meat can also be utilized. In recent years, alpaca meat has gained quite a bit of popularity and has become one of the key ingredients in many Peruvian food dishes.
MAIN DIFFERENCES BETWEEN LLAMAS AND ALPACAS
Despite the great resemblance of these Peruvian animals, there are a few differences between llamas and alpacas. In order to distinguish between llamas and alpacas, several physical characteristics must be taken into account: their facial features, their size and height, and the texture of their fur. Although the differences go far beyond their physical characteristics. Both llamas and alpacas have different personalities and temperaments. So you can expect different attributes of each of these wonderful animals.
First of all, alpacas generally have short ears with pointed shapes. While Llamas have banana-shaped ears. One of the most important aspects of the llamas and alpacas are their faces. Llamas tend to have a much longer face and less hair, giving them a slightly rougher appearance. They also have a much larger snout than their relatives. While the Alpacas have much prettier and more tender faces. Alpacas facial features are much softer. And its thick fur and blunt noses make it look much more attractive than its distant relatives.
One of the things you will notice when comparing llamas and alpacas is their size. Llamas are usually relatively larger than Alpacas. The difference in weight between the two animals can be quite considerable. Llamas can weigh between 280 to 450 pounds or 127 to 204 kilograms. While Alpacas weigh an average of 106 to 185 pounds, that is, between 48 to 84 kilograms. In terms of height, llamas are much taller. Llamas can reach between 106 and 117 centimeters on average. While Alpacas measure on average between 86 to 92 centimeters in height.
Besides, Alpacas are much more profitable when it comes to producing quality wool. Llama wool is much thicker and is not usually suitable for garment production. Alpacas tend to produce a much finer fiber than llamas. Besides, alpacas also tend to produce much more fleece in a wide variety of colors than charismatic llamas. The wool of the alpacas can have tones such as white, brown, and light shades of yellow. In addition, llamas do not have as much hair on their head and faces, unlike Alpacas. Alpacas are covered in wool all over their body. Even their face has quite fine fur. Unlike llamas, alpacas usually have a single color that covers their entire body. While the llamas can have multi-colored fur. Llamas usually have shades of white, red, brown, and even black wool.
Another big difference is that Alpacas are herd animals, while Llamas are much more independent. Besides, alpacas usually take more care and need more protection than their distant relatives. They are much more social animals than llamas. In terms of their personality, alpacas are usually more skittish, submissive, and friendly to humans. And llamas have a much stronger character. So they are used as guard animals for the same alpacas and other small animals. But the temperament of llamas and alpacas will largely depend on the training and socialization to which they have been exposed. Both llamas and alpacas are curious animals by nature. And if they feel comfortable, they will likely approach you. Otherwise, it is a good idea to keep your distance so as not to threaten or scare these charismatic animals.
WHERE TO FIND 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, take the Lares or Ausangate treks in the Cusco regions. These are excellent places to appreciate these beautiful animals. For those of you who like to take photos, especially in Cusco. You will find some local women in traditional costumes accompanied by llamas or alpacas. They will allow you to take pictures with these beautiful animals for a small fee.
Not far from Cusco city is the naturally wonderful Sacred Valley of the Incas. The valley was used by the Incas for agricultural purposes. The climate of the valley is milder and perfect for growing fruit and vegetables, which still happens today. 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. The proceeds of Awanacancha go to the local communities.
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 this area. And among the many sites available, thousands of tourists come to Peru every year to visit Machu Picchu. Machu Picchu is surrounded by mystery and unsolved questions. This is because scientists and archaeologists are still unsure of the purpose of the beautiful citadel. Equally puzzling is knowing that the site was abandoned after one hundred years of being inhabited. Despite this, today you can enjoy an unparalleled architectural marvel. And if you have planned to visit the well-known archaeological complex of Machu Picchu. You have to think about complementing it with a visit to Machu Picchu mountain. Along the way, you will find some of these loving animals.
You can find a large number of llamas and alpacas throughout the Peruvian Andes. Especially inside Machu Picchu, where you can see llamas grazing around the great main square. Peru is home to a wide variety of animals, including the camel family. Llamas were traditionally used as pack animals to carry supplies in mountainous regions. And this can also be seen in contemporary times. So on your next visit to Peru, there is a high probability that you will notice these friendly animals.
PURPOSE OF THESE ANIMALS
For more than 5000 years, alpacas were used for the clear purpose of fiber rearing. But in Peru, Alpaca meat is one of the many delicacies that you have to try. While llamas have been raised primarily as pack animals and for their delicious meat.
Traditionally, alpacas (really the most attractive of the two) were used for their wool. In addition to the delicious meat that appears on many fine-dining menus 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.
The last of the camel family is the Vicuña. You are more likely to find the animal within the Arequipa district in Peru. Vicuñas are found in great numbers in one of the largest canyons in the world, the Colca Canyon. Therefore, you have to take advantage of traveling to this unique destination full of impressive views. As these animals are less numerous than their cousins, llamas and alpacas, the vicuña is raised mainly for its wool. And most of the fiber is exported abroad. Wool is used all over the world, especially in the fashion industry. And it is one of the best qualities you will find.
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 found around Peru and South America in general. Guanacos are usually smaller than llamas but larger than Alpacas. It is believed that they are close ancestors of the contemporary llama. Whereas Vicuñas are wild and undomesticated relatives of the charismatic Alpaca. This is much smaller than the Alpaca. Vicuñas were until recently considered an endangered species in most countries. You can find numerous Nature Reserves where these animals are protected. Despite this, Vicuña has a very valuable fiber. For this reason, Vicuña wool is also highly valued in the textile and fashion industries.
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. It’s 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 of the various Andean communities. These communities earn their living by raising the different Alpacas, either for their meat or their wool. And fortunately, there are several types of fabrics.
- LLAMA FABRIC: The Llama has two main layers. The top layer is usually very rough and thick. This top layer usually protects the bottom layer, which is quite soft. So you have utilities for rugs, ropes, rugs, and some other decorations. The bottom layer is often used for fine, quality garments. But since both layers are so different, it is usually a very difficult fabric to process.
- GUANACO FABRIC: Considered a higher quality fabric than Llama fabric. This is because it is much simpler to treat. Guanaco, like the Llama, has two layers.
- 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 done when the Alpaca is one year old or less. During this time, the Alpaca’s coat is usually finer.
- VICUÑA FABRIC: Vicuña cloth is acknowledged 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. Spend your next vacation visiting Peru and all that the country has to offer. The wonderful native animals of Peru are the highlight of any visit. Not only are the animals great to see, but the people of Peru are warm and friendly. 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!