Llamas vs. alpacas. What are the differences? Which one makes the better pet?
Luckily, llamas and alpacas make great pets all around. Even if you’re just planning on using them for production purposes (primarily textiles), they will still be a great addition to your homestead.
Low maintenance with the exception of daily care tasks, these animals are great around kids and other animals.
But what is the difference between llamas and alpacas?
Is one better than the other? Here are some basics on the difference between animals, from the general care and maintenance, and how to decide whether a llama or an alpaca may be the right fit for you.
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Llamas vs Alpacas- the Basics
Because llamas and alpacas are perceived as being very similar to each other, you may be asking, “What’s the difference between an alpaca and a llama?”. Their differences range from the following: face shape, ear shape, wool texture, coloring, temperament, origin, size, and distribution.
Here’s a list of the variety of characteristics of these amazing farm animals – from what alpacas and llamas share in common to what they do not.
Llamas are significantly larger than alpacas. A typical llama will stand at about 42-46in and weigh in at around 280-450 lbs. On the other hand, the average alpaca stands at about 34-36 in. and weighs about 106-185 lbs.
Think of alpacas as the rounder of the two mammals. Alpacas have a smaller, rounder face that is covered in fine, fluffy fur. On their forehead, you can see a big ol’ fluff of fur. Llamas, on the other hand, have long faces. Their snout extends farther out than an alpaca. In addition, they do not have that special fluff of fur on the tops of their heads. Instead, finer, coarser fur covers their face.
Both animals have such cute ears! The ears alpacas have are short and round. Their ears have tufts of fur surrounding them as well. Llamas have very long pointed ears with coarse fur covering them.
Llama wool and alpaca wool is in incredibly high demand, although their individual furs serve different purposes.
Since llamas have thinner, coarser fur, distributors use llama fleece for textiles such as rugs or ropes. The fur provides a very fine, durable material for items such as these. An alpaca’s wool is in even higher demand.
Their fur is soft and warm. In fact, the most sought-after wool from an alpaca is called “baby alpacas.” Alpaca fiber, especially from the first shearing, is usually the softest and fluffiest it can be in its lifetime. Overall though, an alpaca’s wool is used for textiles like clothing.
In terms of diverse coloring, llamas win this round. They can have colors such as black, red, yellow, white, tan, and brown. In addition, they can be spotted in different colors. For example, a llama could have black coloring with white spotting.
Alpacas are less diverse when it comes to color, but within those colors are beautiful hues. They can exhibit white, yellow, or brown wool. Unlike llama wool, alpaca wool typically only supports one color across their whole body.
This is truly where llamas and alpacas differ. Both animals serve different purposes.
Due to a llama’s size and hardiness, they were/are used as pack animals. For example, they are responsible for carrying equipment while hiking or trekking. In the past, llamas were actually used to haul mineral ores from mines! These domesticated animals are often used as guard animals, too.
Of course, llama fiber is in demand, too. It is a soft fiber that is great for spinning. Llamas tend to be used for this purpose as well as the ones listed above.
Alpacas are primarily used for their wool and meat because of their size and lowered defenses. Although alpaca herds are beautiful to behold and are also decent pack animals, they aren’t the same animal as the llama in regards to defenses – they simply aren’t good at protecting other livestock. They tend to run away rather than guard other species.
These animals are relatively similar in temperament, however, there are a couple of differences. For example, llamas are a lot more independent than alpacas. They are able to defend themselves due to their size and spitting. Although they do not really spit on humans, they will spit on other animals or llamas when they feel irritated, threatened, or need control.
Alpacas are a lot more docile and will use spitting as a last resort. Because they have little to no defenses, they prefer to keep together in herds. Even though these animals are docile, they should not be housed with sheep or goats because they are unable to fight for food against the animals that scrape the grass bare.
Both alpacas and llamas are similar when it comes to friendliness. As a domesticated animal, both alpacas and llamas tend to be very gentle animals who are also very social. Much like a lot of other farm animals, they need to be well socialized.
Llamas and alpacas are native to the Andes Mountains, but they originated in different places. Llamas are originally from North America and eventually migrated south. Alpacas are from South America and are descended from their ancestors, the vicuna.
Are Llamas or Alpacas Friendlier?
Both animals are very friendly especially when they are well-socialized. However, if you want to know which one is “friendlier”, the alpaca is the one for you. Not only do they look warm and fuzzy, but their temperament reflects this!
They rarely spit on anything, let alone humans. They are great pets and are fantastic around children. When you approach one (this goes for llama’s too) just be calm and gentle. They will warm up quickly to you.
Does an Alpaca or Llama Spit?
Llamas and alpacas do spit if they have to. Llamas spit more than alpacas because they are of a slightly different temperament than alpacas. However, this doesn’t mean that they go out looking to spit on humans or other animals.
On the contrary, llamas and alpacas rarely spit on humans.
As stated above, the difference between llamas and alpacas when it comes to spitting is temperament as well as defense. Llamas spit on other animals when they feel threatened, incredibly irritated, or when they need to gain control. Alpacas will not spit unless they feel like their life depends on it.
Are Alpacas Nicer than Llamas?
In the great llamas vs. alpacas debate, you may ask which animal is “nicer” than the other. The truth is, both animals are nice. They need to be socialized with other animals, their own kind and humans, but they are, by themselves, docile.
Llamas are more independent and because of that will hold their own when they feel like they have to. This doesn’t mean that they are jumping at the chance to spit on you.
Alpacas are gentler than llamas and are typically preferred when you want a pet that will be around kids. Again, this isn’t saying that llamas are not less suited to be around children. In fact, llamas are great with kids! But alpacas are naturally more gentle creatures.
Can an Alpaca and a Llama Mate?
Alpacas and llamas can indeed mate. Their offspring is called a “huarizo.” They are typically sterile and can not mate.
However, it is important to consult experts when breeding llamas and alpacas together as some health issues can arise.
Are Alpacas Easy to Raise?
When it comes to raising alpacas, they are relatively easy to raise. Caring for alpacas and llamas is a fun, easy experience for anyone looking to expand their ranch. Much like any other animal, they need routine care and maintenance.
The same goes for the care of llamas. Here’s a breakdown of what it takes to raise a llama vs. an alpaca.
Both animals have valuable wool that should be maintained well. They need to be sheared annually for their overall health and so their wool can be used for multiple textile purposes. They both need occasional brushing, but not so much that it damages their fur. This also depends on the type of fur fiber the animal has.
If it has classic wool (a double coat) then brushing is needed. If they have wooly fur (this doesn’t shed) then brushing isn’t necessary. Brushing these animals needs to be done gently and deliberately. They also need regular hoof trimming as often as once a month.
If you have an area with concrete that the llamas or alpacas can walk on, that will help file them down a little bit. However, they still need regular trimming. Their walking on concrete simply makes your job a little easier.
Make sure to continually check their teeth and gums for any sign of infection in addition to doing a general lookover for any ticks, bugs, or debris that might be caught in their fur.
Llamas are better suited for diverse climates due to their hardiness and independence, but they still need shelter when living in extreme weather conditions. Alpacas prefer more temperate climates due to their incredibly warm fur, but they can live in warmer climates if they have the proper tools. For example, if you live in a warmer climate, it is necessary that you provide fans for the alpacas within a shelter.
These animals are social and like to graze. A three-sided shelter is enough in most areas for the animals. As long as it is big enough to house however many llamas or alpacas you have and provides a roof to protect against rain, snow, or heat, they will be happy.
In addition, these animals need a secure fence that will keep predators out more than anything. They respect the boundaries the fence sets.
When considering whether you should raise llamas vs. alpacas, their health and hardiness is another important category to note.
Llamas are hardier than alpacas, but both hold their own when it comes to fighting off different diseases. Still, they need routine vet visits and vaccines to make sure they are in top shape. Annual vet visits are usually enough to maintain the well-being of your animals. Talk with your local vet to get more information on how to keep your llamas or alpacas healthy depending on the climate you live in.
Second-cutting grass hay is the primary feed for llamas and alpacas. Make sure that they have fresh, dry hay 24/7 and they will be happy.
When a llama or alpaca is pregnant, they might need extra vitamins in the form of supplements. These vitamins usually come in the form of alfalfa hay or pellets. For alpacas, these animals typically need to be fed 1.5% of their body weight every day. A grain supplement is a good idea too.
Are Alpacas Easy to Keep?
Unlike other farm animals, llamas and alpacas are pretty low maintenance when it comes to care and keep. When comparing llamas vs. alpacas, you won’t see much of a difference in this category.
They also live relatively long lives. With proper alpaca care, they can live for as long as 20 years! As long as you provide them with their basic needs, they will be happy and healthy!
How Much Land Do You Need to Raise Alpacas?
Because alpacas are more dependent, they don’t need a ton of land. They need at least an acre of land. An acre supports at least 5 alpacas.
So, if you’re looking to get a bigger herd, you’ll need more than an acre. Llamas, on the other hand, need a lot more space. Since they are independent and can defend themselves if need be, they need more than an acre.
Why Do People Ranch Alpacas?
When it comes to llamas vs. alpacas, both alpaca ranching and llama ranching is fulfilling. Both animals require minimal maintenance while being excellent companions for their humans. People tend to ranch alpacas, not just for their fur and ease of care, but because they help ease stress.
Llamas and alpacas are fairly easy to train as well. When you purchase a llama or alpaca at a young age, you can train them to lead on a leash or even go through obstacle courses.
Can You Legally Own an Alpaca?
Alpacas and llamas are legal in all 50 U.S. states. You do not need to obtain a special permit to adopt one of these animals.
Which is a Better Pet – Llamas vs Alpacas
No matter which one you decide to adopt, both llamas and alpacas tend to make great pets. They are safe around children and are noninvasive when it comes to your time and space. They need regular care and maintenance, but are otherwise tame.
If you prefer a very low maintenance don’t-have-to-worry-about-it kind of pet, alpacas are the best for you. If you have a good amount of land and want a more independent animal, llamas are better for you.
Either way, they are friendly and fluffy. Contact your local veterinarian or breeder to get more information on whether a llama or alpaca may be right for you.
Do you raise llamas – or alpacas? Let us know your experiences in the comments!
Want to learn more about farming? Be sure to take a look at these other articles.
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