The Difference Between A Llama And Alpaca For Kids

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Alpaca vs llama is a million-dollar question!  We are going to go through the key things to look for when evaluating the difference between a llama and alpaca.  They both have similarities but are also very different, and quirky animals.  Then we are going to go through some fun facts about llamas, and some fun alpaca facts.

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Alpaca Vs Llama

When you are making the ultimate decision about alpaca vs llama, it is important to know how to tell the difference between the two animals and fun facts about each.

An Alpaca

Difference Between A Llama And Alpaca

If you are trying to tell the difference between a llama and an alpaca there are a few different physical features you can look for in these camelids.  For one, the main alpaca and llama difference is in their size.  Llamas are bigger than alpacas.  They are about twice as big as an alpaca which is why they are used as cargo animals in Peru

The second characteristic to look for when trying to tell the difference between a llama and alpaca is their ears!  Alpaca’s ears are shorty and pointy whereas llamas have longer ears that stand straight up.

Both the llama and alpaca are camelids and, at first glance, can appear to be quite similar. Besides their physical characteristics, alpacas also have much finer fiber coats.  This is why alpaca fiber is sought after weaving and knitting. Also, llamas are known for their quick tempers and spitting.  Llamas will spit at the first notion of being threatened whereas alpacas will only spit as a last resort.

A llama

Llama Facts For Kids

Llamas Are Camelids

Just like alpacas and camels, llamas belong to the biological group called Camelidae.  Camelids are herbivores with long necks and legs and funny toes.  They are not hooved animals.  They are two-toed animals with toenails and soft footpads.

Llamas Are Pretty Large Animals

One of the main differences between a llama and an alpaca is its size.  Llamas are bigger.  A llama can weigh anywhere from 250-450 pounds and carry about 30% of their body weight.  Which brings us to our next fun facts about llamas.

Llamas Were Domesticated As Pack Animals

Because llamas can carry around 30% of their body weight, they make great pack animals.  Llamas were domesticated some 5,000 years ago in the Peruvian highlands to be used as such.  Llamas are also such smart animals that they know their carrying limits.  If you try to overload a llama it will not move.  It will simply lie down or refuse to move.

Llama Poop Doesn’t Stink

Llama poop, or llama beans as the farmers refer to it, is almost odorless.  Not only that, but llama poop is super beneficial.  The Inca used to burn llama poop for fuel.  Nowadays, llama poop makes amazing, eco-friendly fertilizer.  How is that for a cool llama fact?

More Fun Facts About Llamas

Llamas Don’t Bite

They don’t bite, but they could spit at you.  Llamas are generally docile creatures but one of their most known (and quirky) characteristics is their spitting.  However, if a llama is used to people and does not feel threatened it is unlikely to spit.  There are many llamas in Peru that have been habituated to humans.  For example, the llamas around Machu Picchu are usually well-behaved and not known for spitting.

Speaking of Machu Picchu, if you want to know more, read our post Visiting Machu Picchu With Kids packed with lots of great information.

Llamas Spit For Several Different Reasons

Llamas are known for spitting when they feel threatened, either by a human, another llama, or a predator.  A llama spit attack can be quite vicious and smells super gross.  Llamas will also spit at younger llamas to show dominance, especially when food is concerned.  A female llama will also spit at a male llama when she is not interested in his advances.

Llamas Can Be Cross-Bred With Alpacas

Interestingly, llamas and alpacas can be bred together to make a sort of llama/alpaca hybrid called a huarizo.  Haurizos tend to be smaller than a llama but with fur like an alpaca.

In the wild, huarizos end up being sterile.  This means that they cannot mate with other huarizos and produce babies.

Alpaca Facts For Kids

There Are No Truly Wild Alpacas

That’s right, the Incas domesticated the Alpaca some 6,000 years ago. You might ask “where are alpacas from”?  Well, nowadays every alpaca is a domesticated animal that belongs to a farmer. Even in Peru where alpacas roam the mountains, they still belong to a farmer. Originally, the Inca domesticated and bred the Alpaca for their fleece.

If you want to learn more about the Incas, read Facts About The Incas For Kids here.

Alpacas Can Be All Different Colors

Alpaca’s are such unique animals that they come in 22 different colors.  All the colors have many hues.  This is one reason that the alpaca is so sought after for its’ fleece and fibers.  Also, because they come in so many different tones, means that the Alpaca fibers do not have to be dyed as much as other fibers.

They Share A Bathroom With Other Alpacas

A group of alpacas will use a communal bathroom, known as a dung pile.  Because of this alpacas can essentially be potty trained.  Even potty trained to use something like a cat litter box, just much larger.  There is no difference between a llama and alpaca in this fact.  This fun fact is true for both animals.

They Don’t Spit

Well, almost.  While their cousin the llama is known for spitting, alpaca almost never spit.  An alpaca will spit at another alpaca but it will only spit at a human when it feels extremely threatened and as a last resort.

More Alpaca Fun Facts

Alpaca Fleece is Better Than Wool

Alpaca fleece is stronger, softer, and warmer than sheep’s wool.  A great alpaca facts is that alpaca fibers are one of the strongest natural fibers.  It is also 3 to 5 times stronger than sheep’s wool.

Another fun alpaca facts for kids is that alpaca fleece does not contain lanolin, making it hyper allogenic.  Alpaca fleece is also fire and waterproof.

Alpaca fleece and Peruvian weaving are linked.

The beautiful weavings of Peru document the stories of the Inca and Peruvian people, in the absence of a writing system.  Fine, high quality alpaca products are hand spun, then dyed with natural colorants and finally woven into incredible weavings.

You can read more about the Artisans of Peru, the Alpaca Fiber and weaving processes here

Baby Alpaca wool isn’t actually from a “baby”

By far the most valuable type of alpaca wool is “baby alpaca” which is extremely soft and fine.  However, it is not actually shorn from a precious baby alpaca, but refers to the first shearing of a young animal.  This is an important milestone in the life of an alpaca, and accompanied by special rituals of offering to the mountain gods of Peru.  I have been extremely lucky to take part in one of these, and watch the first shear of a “baby alpaca.”

Alpacas Lifespan

An alpaca’s lifespan is around 20 years.  That is longer than a dog’s lifespan.  When getting an alpaca as a pet or to raise for its soft, fine wool, that is an important consideration.  The oldest recorded alpaca lived to be 27 years old!

Alpacas Hum

In general, alpacas are typically quiet creatures.  Humming is the most common sound that you will hear an alpaca make.  They hum for all sorts of reasons too.  An alpaca will hum when it is content, bored, distressed, you name it!  Humming is also the way one alpaca would communicate with another alpaca.

When mating, male alpacas will serenade the female alpaca with a throaty noise called orgling.  How unique and romantic is that?

Alpaca Vs Llama – The Verdict

So what is your alpaca vs llama conclusion?  You can see there is a difference between a llama and alpaca.  However, the alpaca and llama difference is pretty subtle.  They are cousins after all.  If you have any other llama facts for kids or alpaca facts for kids, please leave them in the comments below.

Interested In More Cool Facts For Kids

If you are interested in more learning, you can check out our other posts in a Facts For Kids series.

Here are a few of our favorites:

Fun Australia Facts For Kids

Interesting Peru Facts For Kids

Fun Facts About Fiji For Kids

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