Alpaca and Lama

8 Differences Between an Alpaca and Lama

Who are Alpaca and Llama? What is the difference? After almost a year of living in Peru, it became very interesting for me to understand this. So, alpaca and llama are animals of the camel family, whose homeland is the highlands of the Andes of South America. Before coming to Latin America, I personally had not heard anything about the alpaca, and I had a vague idea of ​​the lama. But it turns out that these are different animals and their purpose is also completely different.

Llama vs Alpaca | Whats the difference

  1. Ears
    This is one of the most noticeable differences: the llama’s ears are long and shaped like a banana. In alpacas, they are small and look like the point of a spear.
  2. Muzzle shape
    Both animals belong to the camelid family and in many respects they have similar features of the muzzle, but not their shape. If in a llama its shape is more elongated, then in an alpaca it is more flattened. In addition, alpacas have a lot more hair on their faces.
  3. The size
    Llamas are about twice the size of alpacas – 180 and 100 cm, respectively. The difference in weight is exactly the same: an adult alpaca weighs 45-80 kg, and a llama – 90-160 kg.
  4. Character
    Alpacas are quite shy and shy, and they rarely bite and spit. In turn, llamas are famous for the fact that if you come close to them, they can spit or even bite.
  5. Herd instinct
    Alpacas live in a herd, while llamas are more independent and sometimes prefer to be alone. But they are much easier to tame. Moreover, very often llamas are used as shepherds for alpacas.
  6. Wool
    Alpaca’s coat is very soft, while the llama’s is coarser. At the same time, more wool can be obtained from one alpaca, because it is denser.
  7. Benefits for humans
    For 5-6 thousand years, alpacas have been bred for only one purpose – wool. During the same time, llamas are bred, but not for wool, but as “porters”. Llamas have a straight and strong back, which allows them to be used for transporting things.
  8. Ancestors
    Alpacas and llamas were born from the domestication of different animals. So, for example, the ancestor of the alpaca is the vicuña, and the llama is the guanaco. Moreover, if you cross an alpaca and a llama, you get a wariso, but this animal does not have a strong back and such a wool cover as its parents.
Alpaca wool

Alpaca Wool Features

Alpacas are domestic animals belonging to the camel family. They live in South America (Ecuador, Peru, Chile, Bolivia) in the highlands, in the Andes. Alpacas are considered rare animals. They are bred only for the sake of wool, in the highlands of Peru it is an important export item. Alpacas are sheared every two years and get only 1-1.2 kg of wool from one animal, so it is expensive. Alpaca wool is not completely cut, but is removed from the back and sides. It is necessary to leave some of the fur to the animal for heating, because the living conditions in the mountains are very harsh.

Alpaca Wool Features

Alpaca is a very cute animal that lives in the Peruvian Andes. Today there are two types of animals: Alpaca Huacaya – the most common species, similar to a small fluffy bear and Alpaca Suri. The latter is more rare. His wool is considered to be of the highest quality, and therefore valuable.

The growth of alpacas is not more than a meter, they weigh about 70 kilograms and have a long (on the sides its length reaches 15-30 cm), soft wool.

Many thousands of years ago, these animals were domesticated by the inhabitants of the South American Andes. The ancient Incas were able to appreciate the wool of these animals for its unique properties and noble color. This wool was even their local currency.

Alpaca wool among the Incas was worn only by tall persons. But the new inhabitants of South America, the Spaniards who came from Europe, brought sheep with them, and the alpaca was immediately underestimated. And only after almost four centuries the former popularity of alpacas returned. Since the 80s of the last century, they have become seriously interested in animals. Peru is the largest supplier of alpaca wool today.

Alpaca wool

Alpaca with its appearance resembles a llama, alpaca wool is one of the most expensive. Alpaca wool, which has unique properties, is used to produce fabric. Alpaca combines the best properties of wool from llamas and camels. Luxurious alpaca fabric is soft and warm. It has 22 natural shades ranging from pure white to black. Therefore, wool is most often not dyed.

Compared to the wool of sheep, alpaca fibers are stronger and warmer, so this unique wool is durable, and in addition, it is unusually light. Since alpaca wool is soft and smooth, it does not cause discomfort when it comes into contact with the body. Due to the listed properties, alpaca fabrics have antiseptic properties and do not cause allergic reactions, as well as do not wrinkle or stretch.

Many woolen fabrics are prone to felting and rolling, but alpaca products are devoid of these disadvantages, moreover, they are resistant to pollution. Alpaca protects not only from the cold, but also from the heat – this is also its uniqueness. It is not hot in alpaca products in summer, and not cold in winter.


Today, alpacas are bred for the purpose of obtaining wool, which is sheared from animals once every two years. An adult animal produces up to three kilograms of high-quality wool for one haircut. The sorting process is done by hand, so the wool is of unrivaled quality. After sorting, dirt, sand, etc. are removed from the fibers. Next, spinning begins, after which the material is thoroughly washed, removing the remaining dirt and grease. After all stages of processing, the wool can be dyed if necessary.

Alpaca wool is distinguished by its unusual lightness, unique brilliance, amazing softness, while it is thin and dense enough at the same time not to let water through. For such valuable characteristics, the locals call alpaca wool “divine fiber”.

Special properties of this wool:

  • Alpaca wool is straighter than camel or sheep. This amazing coat is significantly lighter in weight and is also silky with a fine sheen. It is very important that it retains its unique silky shine for the entire service life of the product.
  • This wool is very warm (seven times warmer than sheep wool). It has very high thermoregulatory properties (at any air temperature, it maintains an optimal body temperature).
  • Alpaca wool is very durable (three times stronger than sheep wool). On warm clothes made of this wool, even after prolonged wear and washings, no pellets form, and it does not fall off.
  • This wool does not contain lanolin and other organic fats, so dust mites do not live in it and products stay clean longer. Alpaca wool is hypoallergenic.
  • Alpaca wool fibers contain small curls that give the animal’s fur softness and tenderness. Unlike the scaly and therefore prickly fibers of sheep’s wool, alpaca fibers are smooth and extremely comfortable on the body.
  • This wool has the largest range of natural colors – 22 shades: from black, gray, brown, burgundy, cream, silver to white (the most valuable). The animals themselves are painted in the desired color.

No other type of wool has such features.

There are two known alpaca breeds: Wakaya and Suri.

The Huacaya is a more numerous breed that looks like a fluffy bear cub. Most often this is what they mean by the name “alpaca”.

Suri is a rare breed. They are only 5% of the total alpaca population. She’s very valuable.

The Suri runo consists of longer and thinner fibers (19-25 microns) – these are uniform and thick curls, straight along the entire length and slightly curled at the ends, they do not contain guard hairs that reduce the quality of the rune. Suri’s wool is particularly soft and graceful. In ancient times, it was used only in the clothing of royalty.

Alpaca wool can be used for both dry and wet felting. For wet felting, it is better to mix it with other wool, merino, cashmere, for better felting.

Alpaca products


  • Socks
  • Scarves, caps, hats
  • Coats, jackets, jackets, sweaters:
  • Blankets, blankets, carpets, fabrics

Alpaca wool fiber can also be used for self-knitting of the same products, it all depends on the craftswoman-needlewoman.

Fabrics made from alpaca wool are used for sewing coats, jackets and other wardrobe items. In this case, the wool of young animals is used, for the manufacture of carpets – of older individuals.

Alpaca wool types

Depending on the diameter, alpaca wool is divided into several types:

  • Royal alpaca -19 microns
  • Baby alpaca -22.5 microns
  • Very soft alpaca -25.5 microns
  • Adult alpaca -32 microns

Of all the types, Baby Alpaca wool is considered the best.

Alpaca Wool Care

How to store products? Some wool products do not tolerate mothballs, including alpaca, so use cedar, lavender or tobacco to keep moths away.

Washing wool or alpaca wool

Wash in cool water with a special detergent. After washing, things should simply be squeezed in your hands, and not squeezed by twisting. Dry away from heating appliances, avoiding sunlight. Then lay the garments on a flat surface with a cloth such as a terry towel underneath, giving it its natural shape, aligning the sleeves, side seams and other elements.

When the product is left in this position for a while, the remaining moisture will transfer from it to the towel. Then, in the same way, you can put this product on the same, but dry cloth. In this position, the product should dry completely. This will avoid deformation during drying.

You can iron if necessary. But this process should be performed even more carefully and through a damp cloth. To restore the lint, rub over the garment with a soft sponge or brush. Alpaca wool products can also be dry-cleaned.

Alpaca wool for its excellent quality confirms the high price. Many sports firms also paid attention to this material. Due to its ability to thermoregulate, wool is used for sewing sportswear.


Alpaca: Living Conditions

Alpaca: Living Conditions and Breeding Features

The alpaca (Latin Vicugna pacos, camel family) is a herbivorous domestic animal that was domesticated by humans over 6,000 years ago. Unlike llamas, who served as animals for ancient Indian tribes, alpacas were used as a source of value and wool to make warm clothing and shoes.


The ancestors of alpacas are presumably artiodactyl mammals, vicuñas (lat.Vicugna vicugna), common in the Andes, in Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Chile. They are much smaller in size than guanacos (animals that became the progenitors of llamas), but they have a great external resemblance to them.

A characteristic feature of vicunas, inherent only in this species, is a pair of lower incisors, which tend to grow constantly (like in rodents) throughout the life of animals. Wild herds of vicunas live on high mountain plateaus, located at an altitude of 4500 – 5500 m. The delicate and thick wool helps animals survive in highlands, where there is a contrasting temperature change.


If the average weight of vicunas is about 50 kg, then in their descendants, alpacas, it reaches 70 kg. Alpacas rarely grow more than one meter. The animals are not suitable for transportation, but their wool quality is recognized as the best in the world. There are two subspecies of alpacas: Suri (lat. Suri) and Wakaya (lat. Huacaya), which differ in the length and density of the coat. Suri is easily recognizable by the long, silky locks of her fur hanging almost to the ground. Wakaya’s coat is not so long, it resembles a very soft and delicate plush. One animal produces from 3 to 6 kg of raw wool per year, from which 1 to 3 kg of valuable yarn can be obtained.

Alpacas are considered centenarians – their average life expectancy is 20 – 25 years, the productive period lasts 14 years. The number of alpacas in their natural habitat today is about 3.5 million. Animals feed on herbaceous plants, weeds, leaves and shoots of perennials; on farms, vegetables, fruits and mineral supplements are added to their diet, which has a positive effect on the quality of the fleece.

Alpacas have a much lower need for food than other farm animals: grazing 25 heads requires a pasture of 1 hectare. In addition, they constantly need fresh water. The physiological feature of these animals is the absence of upper incisors, and therefore they tear off the stems with their lips.

Alpacas are diurnal. In the evening, they are busy chewing food. Since in the wild animals are accustomed to a herd existence, they usually keep in small groups, consisting of several females with cubs and one leader. Alpaca females carry babies for a little over 11 months. Usually one cub is born (twins happen once every 1000 births), the weight of which does not exceed 1 kg.

Alpacas have a very sweet and gentle disposition. Outwardly, they look like long-legged and long-necked sheep. The special structure of their feet, like all representatives of the camelid family, favorably affects the preservation of the natural landscape: alpacas are not able to trample down the grass cover due to the absence of hooves. Attempts to relocate alpacas from the Andes to other mountainous regions (Europe, Africa) were unsuccessful.

Alpaca wool

But in the farms of the United States, Canada, Europe and Australia, where animals were taken for the purpose of domestication and breeding, a significant number of alpacas live. So, today the population of alpacas in the UK numbers about 10 thousand animals, in Germany and Switzerland about 4 thousand, and in Australia – up to 60 thousand. Keeping alpacas and caring for them is not difficult: it is necessary to provide them with food, water and build a corral with a canopy or provide another shelter (clean, unheated room) in case of bad weather.

Alpaca wool is of the greatest economic importance. It is distinguished by its purity, fine fiber and strength. The natural color of the coat ranges from white, cream, beige to brown and black, and has up to 52 shades (according to the classification in Peru).

Alpaca wool is highly resistant to weathering, therefore it is capable of not getting dirty for a long period. It does not contain lanolin, it has lightness, strength, high thermal insulation and water-repellent, hypoallergenic properties. Alpaca wool is used for the production of high quality home textiles, characterized by lightness, soft fiber and excellent warming effect (blankets, blankets, bedspreads), fabrics, yarns and clothing.

In addition to wool, the skin and fur of these animals are highly valued. The excellent taste of alpaca meat also does not go unnoticed. This product has been recognized by nutritionists and culinary specialists as the most delicious, healthy and dietary. 100 g of alpaca meat contains 23 g of protein and a small amount of fat. One adult animal produces up to 23 kg of meat, half of which is intended for cooking sausages, ham, sausages.

Alpacas are often used as pets. They are distinguished by calmness, benevolence, intelligence and complaisance. They can participate in games with disabled children, relieve loneliness for elderly people, serve as a means of psychotherapy for those who suffer from depressive disorders.