Llamas versus Alpacas

Juleisy V.

Staff Writer

No need to fear, the answers are here! The differences between llamas and alpacas.

Depending on what students’ personal interests are, there have actually been several questions about the difference between a llama and an alpaca. Maybe the Alpaca Evolution games, games of mutant alpacas that have appealed to many people for their terrifying nature, have sparked this interest. To satisfy this unique questioning, these animals have characteristics that are actually quite visibly distinguishable. Alpacas are considerably much shorter than llamas. Their ears are straight while a llama’s ears are curved and floppy-like. The main difference between the two is that alpacas are smaller and more domesticated for the use of their fiber while the llamas are wilder and used for labor purposes. They are very similar yet quite different in their own little ways that people have not noticed.

Llamas and alpacas naturally reside in the Andes Mountains located in South America along the PacLlamas Vs. Alpacas3 JVMific Coast, but after many years, they have slowly dispersed throughout the world due to humans transporting them to other countries. For centuries llamas were used for their meat until the people of the ancient world realized that the animals could be used for the fiber they grow. What many people do not know about these animals is that they do not grow fur, wool, or hair. Llamas and alpacas grow strong fibers. It is similar to wool but does not contain lanolin, a fat that wool-bearing animals give off, so those allergic to wool have the alternative of wearing llama instead.

Llamas were used for transportation of goods through rough terrain, making the llamas very useful to the Incas. “Llamas are pack animals that were used for their ability to carry heavy stuff,” said Mr. Dan Page, social studies teacher. Since the Incas lived on mountain ranges, some food had to be grown at different altitudes. Corn was grown in lower areas while potatoes were grown in the highest areas. The llamas were the best way to transport goods from area to area, as an average full-grown healthy llama can carry more than 50 pounds on its back. They have adapted to work in places of high altitudes and move swiftly through small places. The llama’s ability to maneuver through the Andes Mountains was an ample amount of help in the development of the Incan civilization.

Not only in the past but even in more modern times, llamas have shown to be successful even as guard animals. Their protective instincts allow them to look over small hLlamas Vs. Alpacas1 JVMerds of animals such as goats, sheep, alpacas, and other small livestock. Guard llamas are not aggressive or territorial but will alert others with high pitched calls. Llamas can be helpful, but they only cooperate up to a certain point. Once annoyed or overworked, they throw fits in ways that are not very pleasant. “I think llamas spit on you,” said sophomore Sarah Jones, and yes, this is actually very true. When throwing a fit, llamas will either spit, hiss, or kick whomever is nearby. They generally do not behave in this manner toward people, but llamas do spit a lot. Usually this is to keep the other llamas in check and sometimes even used as discipline.

Alpacas, on the other hand, act differently. Alpacas are also part of the camelid family but are the more domesticated type of llamas. First known about seven millennia ago, alpacas were worshipped by the Inca civilization. Unlike llamas, alpacas were bred to produce a unique fiber that could be used for making clothes, coverings as roofs, and even for constructing bridges. There are two types of alpaca fibers: Huacaya and Suri. (Suri is the type that hang in long locks and are the more valuable than Huacaya.) Alpacas that grow Suri are numbered and are very rare. Huacaya, on the other hand, is very common but is still valuable and is sought out for insulating purposes. Alpaca’s luxurious fiber is so unique that a single ounce can cost from $3 to $5. The price range of an average alpaca can cost from $8,000 to $35,000. A prized alpaca though has once even reached the value of $200,000 in an auction. These extraordinary alpacas can be raised as a hobby and fiber sold for a considerable price. The money invested in these alpacas can bring much larger profits.

Like most animals in history, these animals have had a significant role to play for their little society. “Without animals we wouldn’t have had transportation. They were the first source of meat too, and without it, our brains wouldn’t have developed as quick as they did,” stated sophomore Sydney King. Animals have impacted society directly and indirectly in many ways most probably have never noticed. Without animals, civilizations may have taken longer to grow, and ultimately animals helped the development of mankind.

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