Is Your Mama a Llama…or an Alpaca?

Alpacas and Llamas graze together.

Alpacas and Llamas graze together.

Can’t tell the difference between a llama and an alpaca? These two  animal kingdom cousins are actually very distinct from each other in size, value, and use in captivity, and such, you might want your “mama” to be an …alpaca.

Whereas llamas are raised primarily worldwide for  “meat, fiber, dairy products, and  as pack animals” according to Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences website ( extension.psu.edu), Alpacas “are strictly raised for fiber or for pets, as they are too small to be pack animals and too valuable to be slaughtered for meat.”

“A 1997 estimate of the average world market value for an alpaca was between $8500 and $25,000,” added the website. “a breeding age female could be sold for between $15,000 and $25,000.”

Alpaca fleece is considered by many to  be as soft as cashmere. It is also a “hypoallergenic material” because it is lanolin free, lighter than sheep’s wool, and comes in over 20 colors,” according to mountairyalpacas.com.

The llama is also about twice the size of the alpaca. The llama has a very harsh outer coat of fur over a softer inner coat, and the alpaca has a very fine, single coat of fur. Also, although the llama is much bigger than the alpaca, the llama produces far less fiber per animal than the alpaca, explained www.mountairyalpacas.com.

Llamas have long banana-shaped ears while alpacas have shorter spear-shaped ears.  Most adult alpacas weigh between 100 and 175 pounds, according to www.openherd.com. Most adult llamas weigh between 200 and 450 pounds.

An ordinary alpaca stands between 34 and 36 inches, while a llama stands between 42 and 46 inches. Llamas have a longer face and an alpaca’s face is a bit more dull and round, giving them a “smooshed in” look,” explained www.moderfarmer.com.

“At first glance, alpacas may look a lot like their camelid cousin the llama, but there are a variety of differences between these two South American animals,” explains www.modernfarmer.com.

But llamas do have their fans in the United States. According to an article titled ” The Llama is in” published in The New York Times, “People who keep llamas as pets will readily offer you any number of reasons: llamas are quiet, they’re gentle and affectionate, they don’t take a lot of work to maintain and, for outdoor animals, they don’t smell bad.”

Well, that certainly might make your mama happy to know.