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Llama or Alpaca – What’s the Difference?

Llamas and alpacas are both native South American animals and are often confused with one another. Here is a quick reference so you never make the mistake that so many travelers do.

They both come from the high plains of Peru, Chile, and Bolivia called the Altiplano. The first llama was brought to the United States in the 1920s as part of William Randolph Hearst’s personal zoo. Here is a break-down of the differences:


  • Llamas are the bigger of the two, weighing up to 400 pounds!
  • They have a course outer coat and a soft inner coat, not too great for knitting into a sweater
  • They have been bred for pack-carrying for the past 6000 years
  • Llamas have tall, banana-shaped ears
  • They live to be 20-25 years old


  • Alpacas only weigh between 100-175 pounds
  • They have 1 soft coat throughout that makes cozy and warm sweaters!
  • They were bred for their soft fibers for the past 6000 years
  • Alpacas have short, triangular ears
  • They live to be 15-20 years old

Now you know how to spot these furry friends but we suggest that you don’t try to bring one home for your own personal zoo. Although Mr.Hearst had no problems, we think border control might have something to say.