what is the difference between a llama and alpaca

what is the difference between a llama and alpaca

In case you are strolling by way of the streets of Cusco or maybe visiting Machu Picchu, you’re sure to identify a llama or alpaca. However which one are you taking a look at?

To inform the distinction between llama and alpaca, there are a number of bodily options to have a look at: their measurement, face, ear form, and wool texture and coloration. Their variations additionally transcend bodily options, with llamas and alpacas differing in function, temperament, distribution and origin. Learn extra about these key variations under.

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Desk of Contents

  • Dimension
  • Face
  • Ear form
  • Wool
  • Function
  • Temperament
  • Distribution
  • Origin
  • Bonus: Different Camelids in South America

Final up to date by Melissa Dreffs in November 2020.

1. Dimension

The very first thing you’ll discover when evaluating an alpaca and a llama is their measurement distinction. Llamas are considerably greater than alpacas.

With reference to their peak, llamas are taller, reaching 42 to 46 inches (106 to 117 cm) on common. Alpacas measure between 34 to 36 inches (86 to 92 cm) on common.

Nevertheless, the burden distinction between these two animals is much more vital. On common, llamas weigh between 280 and 450 kilos (127 to 204 kg). That’s quite a bit in comparison with the 106 to 185-pound (48 to 84 kg) common weight vary for alpacas.

A graphic with a llama and alpaca showing the difference in size, face shape, and ear shape.

Llamas (left) are a lot bigger than alpacas (proper) by way of peak and weight. Graphic by Peru for Much less.

2. Face

Llamas have an extended face with a bigger muzzle. Alpacas, alternatively, have spherical, smooshed faces. In addition they have fluffy fur on their face, particularly on their foreheads. Llamas are inclined to have quick and skinny fur round their face.

Alpacas have softer facial options than llamas. Due to this, many individuals consider alpacas are the cuter of the 2.

A brown llama face and a tan and white alpaca face juxtaposed showing the difference in features.

The facial options of a llama (left) and an alpaca (proper) will help you inform the distinction between the 2. Llama photograph by Birlok on Pixabay. Alpaca photograph by paulbr75 on Pixabay.

3. Ear Form

Llama ears are tall and lengthy. They get up in a form that appears like a banana. Alpacas have shorter, pointy ears. Their fuzziness continues onto their ears, whereas llamas are inclined to have smoother and straighter fur round their ears.

The face of an alpaca with reddish brown fur with short, pointy ears standing up and chewing on hay.

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Alpacas have quick, pointy ears, furry faces, and quick snouts. Photograph by Capri23auto on Pixabay.

4. Wool

The wool of alpacas can differ from white to lighter tones of yellow and brown. Their complete our bodies, even their faces, are lined in fluffy, advantageous fur. They have a tendency to solely have one coloration of wool masking their complete physique. In distinction, llamas often develop extra coarse wool and have a tendency to have distinctive recognizing and multicolored fur starting from shades of white, brown, black and purple.

In terms of textiles, alpaca wool produces a a lot finer fiber than llamas. A whole lot of clothes and garments you should buy in Cusco use alpaca wool. There’s an much more luxurious wool generally known as child alpaca, created from the alpacas first shear. It’s softer and extra sturdy than the later shears. Llama wool will not be as smooth however can be utilized to make rugs, ropes or different gadgets.

Three white baby alpacas standing in a mountainous terrain. Trees and rolling hills in the distance.

Child alpacas produce extraordinarily advantageous wool throughout their first shear. Photograph by ii7017 on Pixabay.

5. Function

Llamas are bigger animals which were bred principally to be a pack-carrying animal. This function dates again to the Inca Empire. In the course of the Spanish conquest, the llamas turned pack animals in mines, bringing ore down from the mountains. To a lesser extent, their wool has been used to make textiles and their meat is sometimes eaten.

Alpacas, alternatively, are a lot smaller and due to this fact don’t make excellent pack animals. As a substitute, they’ve a really advantageous, silky coat that may create smooth and heat textiles. They’re sheared as soon as per yr. You’ll find loads of alpaca textiles on the market in markets throughout the Andes. Moreover, indigenous teams just like the Inca incessantly ate alpaca meat, a lean, nearly candy supply of protein. Immediately, you’ll find alpaca meat in lots of eating places throughout the Peruvian Andes. Alpaca meat can also be gaining recognition globally, with alpaca farms within the US and Australia making a reputation for themselves.

Several llamas carrying bags on their back working as porters during the Lares Trek in Peru.

Llamas make nice pack animals and even are part of some trekking groups in Peru. Photograph by Adriana Proaño of Peru for Much less.

6. Temperament

Alpacas are usually light and shy, needing extra safety and care from people. They like being in herds as they’re very social animals. Llamas, nonetheless, are extra impartial. Resulting from their measurement, they’re higher capable of shield themselves.

Each animals have the power to spit, however spitting at people is much less widespread than you suppose. Llamas are inclined to spit at different llamas once they really feel threatened, as a type of self-discipline or to realize management. Alpacas, nonetheless, solely spit as a final resort.

On the whole, their temperament is determined by the person animal’s socialization and coaching, with loads of pleasant llamas and alpacas. In the event you come throughout both, be sure you preserve your distance to not frighten or threaten the animal. They’re very curious creatures, and in the event that they really feel comfy round you, they might strategy you. Maintain your cameras able to seize a cute selfie!

A brown and white llama at Machu Picchu. Stone walls and terraces of the citadel behind the llama.

About 30 llamas name Machu Picchu dwelling. Photograph by 12019 on Pixabay.

7. Distribution

Whereas llamas and alpacas are home animals and don’t stay within the wild anymore, each actually thrive of their native area, the Andes Mountains of South America. In evaluating the distinction between llamas and alpacas, you will need to observe that llamas thrive in a larger number of climates.

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Subsequently, the vary of llamas is bigger than that of alpacas. Llamas thrive all throughout the Andes of Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador and Peru. They’re rugged creatures that may survive on chilly, dry mountaintops in harsh circumstances. Moreover, about thirty llamas stay at Machu Picchu, making them a number of the most well-known llamas in Peru. You possibly can spot the llamas at Machu Picchu grazing freely all through the archaeological website throughout your tour!

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Whereas nearly all of alpacas stay within the mountainous area of Peru, their vary extends into Ecuador, western Bolivia, northwestern Argentina and northeastern Chile. Alpacas at all times desire to remain in temperate climates inside an approximate altitude of 11,480 to 16,400 ft (3,500 to five,000 meters) above sea degree.

A white llama with the Machu Picchu ruins, Huayna Picchu peak, and surrounding mountains behind.

Put together for a selfie with a llama at Machu Picchu! Photograph by StockSnap on Pixabay.

8. Origin

Whereas llamas and alpacas are related creatures, their origin tales are fairly completely different. Llamas originated within the central plains of North America and migrated south throughout the Nice American Interchange. Alpacas, nonetheless, descended from their wild relative, the South American vicuña.

Four Andean women in traditional clothes sit in the grass with two white alpacas standing near them.

Andean ladies and alpacas usually put on brightly coloured conventional apparel. Photograph by travelcutie on Pixabay.

Bonus: Different Camelids in South America

Whereas alpacas and llamas are the commonest camelids in Peru and throughout the Andes, two others stay on this space as effectively. The vicuña and guanaco are the wild counterparts of the alpaca and llama respectively.


Unique to the central Andes, vicuñas, the wild counterpart to the alpaca, are additionally an essential animal in Peru. The unofficial Peruvian nationwide animal, they even make an look on the Peruvian coat of arms! Generally noticed within the Salinas and Aguada Blanca Nationwide Reserve between Arequipa and Colca Canyon, many vacationers will get an opportunity to see this animal whereas visiting Peru. Moreover, vicuña wool is taken into account one of many best on the planet. Though costly, vicuña textiles make pretty souvenirs from Peru.

A vicuña, an orange and white animal similar to an alpaca, stands in a barren, rocky terrain.

The vicuñas are the wild counterparts of alpacas. Photograph by LoggaWiggler on Pixabay.


Guanacos, the wild counterpart to the llama, stay within the altiplano, or excessive plains, of the Andes and in Patagonia. Whereas they seem much like the llama, they are usually smaller with particular coloration. Grey faces, white bellies, and lightweight brown or rusty purple wool coats will help you see a guanaco. For the most effective likelihood of recognizing them, head to Argentinean Patagonia.

A guanaco, a tan and white animal similar to a llama, lives in the Andean highlands and Patagonia.

The wild counterpart of llamas are guanacos. Photograph by Raindom on Pixabay.

Now that you realize the distinction between llama and alpaca, it’s time to see them for your self within the Andes! Are you able to strike a pose with a llama at Machu Picchu? Contact us for a custom-made itinerary to Peru.

Andres Miró Quesada

Born and raised in Lima, Andres joined our staff after ending his college diploma. He’s a artistic sort who may be very keen about illustration, and we’re grateful for all of the Peru know-how he shares with us and our vacationers.

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