Llama vs. Alpaca
Llama and alpaca are types of hoofed mammals that belong to the camel family. Both llama and alpaca originate from the Andes in South America. Alpaca inhabits humid and wet foothills, while llama prefers cold and dry plains on the higher altitudes. Llama and alpaca are strict herbivores. Their diet is based on various types of grass (and hay), lichens and leaves. Both animals have been domesticated 4000 to 5000 years ago and they are still very popular on the farms in North and South America. Llama and alpaca are close relatives. They can successfully interbreed and produce healthy offspring. Despite great genetic similarity, llama and alpaca are morphologically very different animals. Here's the list of characteristics that can facilitate their identification:
Llama is around 10 inches taller (at the shoulder height) and much heavier than alpaca. It can reach 290 to 440 pounds of weight, while alpaca rarely exceeds weight of 175 pounds.
Morphology of Face and Ears
Alpaca has blunt face and short, straight, spear-shaped ears, while llama has elongated face and long, curved, banana-shaped ears.
Alpaca has a single layer of dense fur of very fine texture. Despite smaller in size, alpaca produces much more fleece compared with llama, in more than 20 different colors (pure white and black and various shades in between). Unlike alpaca, llama has double coat that consists of soft inner coat and very coarse guard hair on the surface. Llama usually doesn't have much hair on the head, unlike alpaca whose head is covered with dense, fluffy hair.
Both llama and alpaca are social animals that live in large herds. Llama is more independent and courageous than alpaca and it can be used to guard herd of alpacas, sheep and other small animals. Llama easily builds friendly bonds with its owner and it can behave like a true pet. Unlike llama, alpaca is gentle, timid and quiet. It can be easily trained thanks to its intelligent mind.
Llama can survive up to 30 years, but it usually lives until the age of 15 to 25 years. Alpaca has slightly shorter lifespan. It can survive up to 20 years in the captivity.
Association with Humans
Llama and alpaca are very important farm animals in Latin America. Llama is mostly used as a source of meat and to facilitate transportation of heavy load. Alpaca is rarely used as a source of meat. Instead, people cultivate alpacas as a source of luxury fibers which are very strong (nearly like a silk) and extremely durable. Obtained fibers are used for the manufacture of sweaters, ponchos, socks, scarves, gloves, hats and other knitted and woven items.
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