What’s the difference between an alpaca and a llama?
Great question, and it’s one we hear a lot as we sell our beautiful products made from alpaca fleece. Benoit’s quick answer is, “It’s like the difference between someone from the U.S. and someone from Canada!” Just like those two English-speaking nationalities share much of North America, the alpaca and the llama share a common animal family, the camelids. But really, there are significant differences that are easy to spot once you learn a little bit!
Alpacas are generally smaller than llamas. Alpacas stand around 3 feet tall, while llamas can grow to about 4 feet, and weigh up to 400 lbs.
2. Face & Ears
Llamas have a long snout, while alpacas have shorter noses – like pug dogs! Llama ears are quite long, and sometimes are compared to a banana. Alpaca ears are smaller and rounded.
You may have had an uncomfortable encounter with a llama – they are often used to guard other livestock because of their protectiveness and assertive nature. They are independent, whereas alpacas are traditionally raised in herds and are more docile and interdependent. However, both can spit on you if upset!
A very important difference between the alpaca and the llama is their fleece. They both grow thick fleece to keep them warm in their native Andean highland environment, and if living outside of that climate need to be sheared regularly. Llama fiber is coarser than alpaca fleece, and has individual hairs. Alpaca fleece is softer, fuzzier, and finer. Some weavers and knitters find alpaca fleece challenging to work with due to its fluffiness. This is one reason our native artisan makers often combine the alpaca fleece with acrylic – to help it hold together.
Helpful Sites with more information:
The alpaca fleece used in our products is sourced in the alpacas’ original home territory of the Andes, and used by the Ecuadorian artisans who make our items. However, Oregon has many alpaca & llama farms – visit one near you!