Llamas are the ultimate fibre animal! They are regal, charismatic, inquisitive, interactive and lots of fun.
Gee…they look like a camel!
Yep. Llamas are part of the Camelid family and share many characteristics including excellent water retention, two-toes, prehensile upper lips and a long neck. The Bactrian and Dromedary camels form one branch of the camelid family and evolved from the dry desert environments of Central Asia, Africa and the Middle East. The other branch evolved in the harsh, mountainous conditions of South America and includes Llamas, Alpacas and two other wilder cousins, the Guanaco and the Vicuña.
What’s the difference between llamas and alpacas?
There are a number of differences in their physical conformity and in their temperament.
Alpacas are a smaller species and were domesticated over 4,000 years ago, but were bred for their soft fleece and for meat. They behave more like the sheep and can be flighty and less calm than llamas.
Llamas have been domesticated for over 4,000 years and used like horses as pack animals as well as fleece and meat. They were particularly handy for trekking across the rough terrain of the Andes mountains. They are larger than alpacas, stronger and are more easily domesticated.
Quick physical differences to note are:
- Llamas have big, banana-shaped ears – whereas alpacas have small triangular shaped ears
- Llamas have less fleece on their face – alpacas tend to be cute and fluffy on their faces
- Llamas have strong, flat backs and a high-set tail – alpacas have rounded backs sloping down to the tail
What about their temperament?
Due to their greater domestication over the years, llamas tend to be friendlier, quieter and more easily handled than alpacas. If trained well, they make excellent companions and willing animals and their calmer temperament make them easier to maintain than alpacas.
In many countries, llamas are used as therapy animals, visiting hospitals and nursing homes to bring cheer to the sick and elderly. Llamas are also used for a lot of back country trekking and hunting – what better way to explore the wilderness than with a llama humming gently at your side!
Llamas spit don’t they?
Spitting is a form of communication in both llamas and alpacas. It’s their angry voice and defensive mechanism towards each other. However, llamas are usually more discerning at who they spit at and rarely spit at people. They only do so if they think you are a threat.
Why choose llamas?
Llamas are the ultimate all-rounder! They can be used for fibre production, packing and trekking, pulling carts, flock guarding, therapy animals, lawn mowers, manure makers and are wonderful, entertaining animals to watch and interact with.
The llamas at White Stone Farm produce gorgeous natural fibre and are also integrated into our farming practices and ongoing sustainability by producing excellent manure, as flock guards for our free-range chooks, pasture companions and help to keep the grass mowed down.
Want more information?
Get in touch or find out more about llamas at the Llama Association of Australasia’s website.