Llamas, alpacas, llamas, alpacas. What are they? Most people assume they are llamas because, well, that’s really as exotic as people know around here. I know when John first mentioned alpacas to me I thought, “Al-whats?” Understanding what they are and their uniqueness, I can now say that equating an alpaca to a llama is like equating a yak with a cow. They sort of look kinda alike in a different sort of way. Kind of.
What’s the difference?
Both are from the camelid family, but each serves a different purpose. Llamas are about 300 lbs and are made for packing and/or guarding livestock. Alpacas are much smaller, between 120-150 lbs and are solely used for their fleece, which is softer than cashmere and twice as warm as wool.
Where did they come from?
Alpacas are a South American relative of the Camel. Closer relatives include the domesticated llama, the wild guanaco, and vicunas. This family of animals originated on the plains of North America about 10 million years ago. A common ancestor to the South American camelids migrated to South America about 2.5 million years ago. Alpacas were domesticated 6,000 years ago as a prized possession by the ancient Incas because of the quality of alpaca fleece, which was spun and woven into garments.
And so we will begin a little series I’d like to generically call: Alpaca 101
If you want to jump ahead, feel free to check out our alpaca source Alpacas of Montana. James and Sarah have been absolutely wonderful in their guidance, training, and sale of their animals. Wonderful wonderful people. Make sure you check out their site full of details about alpacas, farm set up, business tips, etc. I’ll be using a lot of the information they post as it is well read and hits all the basics and then some.
If you have a question, please ask.