How can you tell the difference between an alpaca and a llama?

Iram Sharifah Khan September 21, 2020
How can you tell the difference between an alpaca and a llama?
Photo by LENNART PREISS/AFP via Getty Images

Alpacas (vicugna pacos) and llamas (llama glama) are part of the camelidae family. They are closely related to camels, which would explain why they have such a similar look. But how do you tell the difference between an alpaca and a llama?

You never know when this might come in handy.

They are both herbivores with elongated necks and are native to the Andes. They are found on farms more these days rather than the wild.

Both mammals have been domesticated for the past 9,000 years and have been bred for their meat, fur and as transportation. Alpacas and llamas both have multiple chambers within their stomachs and are able to carry heavy loads, making them ideal for use as transportation.

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Let’s have a look!

How do you tell the difference between an alpaca and a llama?

Here are a few differences that will enable you to start spouting alpaca versus llama knowledge to your friends.

Temperament

An alpaca is timid by nature and doesn’t tend to challenge other animals or farmers. They are pack animals that enjoy each others’ company.

Llamas, on the other hand, are short-tempered and enjoy being independent. They are known to spit when angry and throw themselves to the floor if they are made to do something they don’t want to do, such as carry a heavy load.

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Alpacalypse!

Face

Llamas generally have a longer face than an alpaca, their giant dough eyes making them resemble their cousin, the camel. An alpaca’s face is smaller and tends to have hooded eyes that are covered or overshadowed by their fur. Their ears are often more pointed than a llama’s and much shorter too, giving them an adorable appearance!

Photo by Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images

Fur

Alpacas have fur that appears uniform whereas llamas can look patchy in colour and have multiple shades on one coat. Alpacas also have much softer fur than llamas and, according to Modern Farmer: “The alpaca also produces more fleece than its larger cousin and in much greater variety of colours.” Some say Alpacas look as though they’re sporting Beatles haircuts!

Size

Llamas have longer legs than alpacas and are larger, which makes them perfect for guarding other livestock, especially with their temperament. An alpaca can be twice as small as the average llama.

If you’re looking for a pet, alpacas are a safer choice but both animals will come if you call their name. A llama will only spit if it has been upset or mistreated. Perhaps wear a raincoat to be on the safe side!

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Be wary!
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Iram is a London-based freelance journalist with a BA in Journalism and Media from Birkbeck University. She studied several modules, including Journalism in British Life, Interview skills and Feature Writing, Introduction to Journalism Practice and Manga and Anime. Iram went from university to work with GRV Media at The Focus Writers’ Academy and enjoys learning Japanese, taking singing lessons, playing video games and watching Korean dramas in her spare time.