What are the main differences between the llama and the alpaca?
The llama is about twice the size of an alpaca and is larger by half a meter.
His ears are banana-shaped unlike the alpaca which has straight and pointed ears.
Its muzzle is also longer than the alpaca
The lama being larger, less fearful and more rebellious (even in some cases, downright more aggressive), it is sometimes used as a "keeper" for the alpaca herds in order to keep away the wild animals and the dogs.
In South America, it is mainly used to carry loads (including Alpaca fiber!) while alpaca is used to produce fiber for clothing. Both are also used for meat.
Llama, alpacas and camelids; A common genetic
From the point of view of genetics, these two camelids, although they have often been crossed in the past, do not have the same ancestor. The alpaca is the Vicuña (Vicuña) and the Lama one, the Guanaco.
Itwas only in 2001 that one study showed the different ancestor of these two cousins. Note that Vicuña and Guanaco still remain in the wild and that these 4 camelids from South America, due to common genetic compatibility,can be crossed.
According to this study, 80% of alpacas that have been genetically tested are partly hybrid with guanacos and llamas, although this is not necessarily always physically visible, making it impossible to truly distinguish a pure-bred alpaca without going through a genetic test 1.
It's not a good idea to cross with lama because it will be deteriorate the fiber quality of the alpaca. Hybridization is one of the greatest influences of the degradation of fiber quality of South American herds. In fact, an alpaca with physical characteristics of the lama is implied to be defective in conformity with the breed and is not registrable in Canada.
1 Dr. Jane Wheeler, vice president of CONOPA and visiting professor, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, San Marcos University, Lima, Peru, April 2001; and Dr. Michael Bruford, professor at University of Cardiff and head of Conservation Genetics, Institute of Zoology, London, personal communication, London, March 30, 2001.