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Difference Between Llamas, Alpacas and Vicunas

  |   Wildlife & Flora

Can you tell the difference between a llama, alpaca and vicuña? Do you know which one has the softest wool? These three animals all look similar but there are noticeable differences between them that will help you tell them apart.

If you’re lacking knowledge in the camelid department, here is a quick guide to get you up to scratch before you jet off to South America, where you will find all three of these creatures in abundance. By the time you’re ready to go, llamas, alpacas, and vicuñas will look as different to you as a horses, sheep, and pigs.



Let’s begin with the most common of the camelids: the llama. When I say the most common, I mean that almost everyone has heard of a llama and could probably describe one if you asked them to. Llamas are the biggest of the three animals we are looking at in this article – this is the most obvious thing to look for when you’re trying to tell what kind of animal you’re looking at. They can grown to a height of 1.7 meters (roughly the size of a tall adult human) and weigh around 400 pounds.

While a llama’s wool is soft, it is nowhere near as soft as an alpaca’s – although chances are you won’t be getting close enough to many llamas to use this as a distinguishing factor. If you can’t tell a llama from its height, take a look at its ears. Llamas’ ears are curved and the tips bend inwards, almost like devil horns.

If all else fails, look at the stature of the animal in question. Llamas were originally domesticated as pack animals around 5,000 years ago so they look much sturdier than their lookalike cousins.

Peru Alpaca


Now, we move on to the alpaca, which is essentially a daintier version of the rugged llama. Alpacas are famed across the world for the quality of their wool. Not only is it unbelievably soft, but it is also water and flame resistant and lacks the lanolin fiber that makes sheep’s wool so itchy. Alpacas are much smaller than llamas – you won’t see any alpacas over 1.5m in height. However, I appreciate that it can be hard to tell by sight how tall 1.5m is without having a llama nearby for a direct comparison.

While llamas have curved ears, alpacas’ ears are straighter and smaller. They stick up out of their heads like fluffy triangle. Furthermore, an alpaca has a flatter face that tends to be shorter than a llama’s.

While it might not be the most pleasant thought when you’re looking at an adorable alpaca, alpaca meat is superb. It is one of the healthiest meats on offer as it is very low in fat and cholesterol. If you are interested in sampling this odd delicacy, you’ll find plenty of it in the eateries of Peru.



Finally, we move on to the third camelid in our list. You could be forgiven for never having heard of a vicuña before now. They are not the most talked about creature in the animal kingdom. You are not even likely to spot one on your journey. Nevertheless, it is a good idea to know a bit about them, just in case.

Firstly, vicuñas are tiny, reaching a maximum height of just 85 cm. This makes them all the cuter to behold and has saved them the burden of becoming pack animals. Their wool is also the softest known to mankind and for this reason a vicuña sweater or blanket will cost you exorbitant amounts of money. They live in high alpine areas of the Andes. You are more likely to spot them during a remote trek up in the Andes, like the Ausangate trek in Peru.

If you’re ready to test out your camelid-differentiation skills, there’s no time like the present to book yourself the trip of a lifetime to South America. For more information about the differences between llamas, alpacas and vicunas, contact us or call 1-888-215-3555.

About Rainforest Cruises

Rainforest Cruises is a boutique travel company specializing in Amazon river cruises, Galapagos Islands tours, and Southeast Asia cruises. We provide you with the finest collection of cruises in Peru, Brazil, Ecuador, Bolivia, Panama and Southeast Asia. As travel experts we have all the advice you need to help you find and book your dream cruise and an unforgettable adventure.