Although llamas and alpacas are both members of the camelid family, there are many differences between them. First of all is their appearance. Alpacas are much smaller in stature than llamas. Alpacas have samller, pointed ears, while llamas have long banana shaped ears. Alpacas body shape is different, their backs are slightly rounded and their tails are sloped down from their backs. A llama should have a flat, level back with the tail placed right off the end of the back.
Next is their fiber. Alpacas can be huacaya or suri and the fiber is generally very soft and abundant. Llamas can be light, medium, or heavy wool and they can be silky or suri, some llamas have very high quality soft fiber and others have lower quality coarse fiber.
They are used for very different things. Llamas are gentle animals and easy to train. They can be stand-offish, but with a little training they are truly wonderful animals. They can be used for packing, for livestock guardians for sheep and goats (llamas have been known to kill coyotes when necessary), they make good companions for other herd animals (like horses, etc.), and they can be taught to do obstacle courses, llama limbo, etc. They make excellent packers in delicate wilderness areas because they have padded feet that do very little damage to the surroundings.
Alpacas are mainly used for fiber and for showing. They are generally not quite as easy to train as llamas and tend to be more skittish.
Llamas and alpacas can crossbreed and the result is called a "huarizo". Crossing them is generally frowned on by responsible llama and alpaca breeders, since the offspring produced does not improve on either animal's desirable characteristics.
I raise, train, & show llamas.
· 1 decade ago