Llamas and alpacas look strikingly similar. Perhaps that’s why they are classified in the same family: camelids, a group of camel-like mammals. Furthermore, they can both be raised for fiber and they both come from South America. They can even breed with each other and produce fertile offspring. So how do you tell the difference between the two if you aren’t familiar with camelids?
The most obvious difference between a llama and an alpaca is size. Alpacas generally weigh from 100 to 185 pounds when they reach adulthood, while llamas weigh from 200 to 450 pounds. Llamas are also taller than alpacas.
But there are other differences, as well.
- Short faces.
- Short, pointy ears.
- Soft, fleecy fiber.
- Strong herd instinct.
- Shy, even timid, nature.
- Vulnerability to predators.
- Long faces.
- Long, curly ears.
- Coarse guard hairs covering a soft undercoat.
- Independent nature.
- Bold personality.
- Ability to guard other livestock from predators.
Llamas can be used to carry packs, pull carts, or guard sheep and alpacas, in addition to their use as fiber animals. Alpacas, while they can pull light carts, are almost exclusively used for fiber—and very high-quality fiber at that.
Overall, the alpaca has a more delicate, “cuddly” appearance which fits well with its shy demeanor. The llama looks more sturdy and rugged. Comparing a few pictures should quickly show you the difference between the two.