Most everyone is at least vaguely familiar with the term ‘alpaca,’ but many people could not describe what they actually are.
To put it simply, an alpaca is an animal related to the llama and is somewhat similar in appearance. They are a domesticated species of livestock that have been kept by humans for thousands of years.
There are two breeds of alpaca, the Suri alpaca and the Huacaya alpaca.
Differences From Llamas
While they are similar to llamas, there are a few key differences. The main difference is the purposes that these livestock are kept.
Both animals have been kept for the purpose of meat by different cultures, but this tends to be their secondary purpose and it not their primary use.
More often than not, llamas are used as pack animals in a way similar to donkeys or horses. Alpacas, on the other hand, are used for their wool and so could be closely compared to sheep in terms of their use.
Alpacas have a unique fur that is ideal for use as wool. Their wooly appearance is another thing that sets them apart from llamas. Other differences in appearance include their shorter ears and snouts when compared to that of llamas. They are usually smaller in size than llamas.
Where Do They Live?
Because they are domesticated animals; alpacas do not have a “natural” habitat and are seen in farmlands all over the world. That being said, they are descended from animals that live at very high altitudes and they tend to do best in that environment.
The vast majority of alpaca are kept in South America, in high altitude locations.
Interesting Habits and Social Skills
For the most part, alpacas are gentle and social creatures that do well with other livestock. They are friendly amongst other alpacas, their llama relatives; as well as other livestock like goats and sheep.
They tend to form a bond with their owners when cared for properly and some are even kept as pets rather than traditional livestock.
While they are kind and loveable animals for the most part, that is not to say they are without their quirks.
One thing to watch out for with alpacas is spitting; a bad habit they tend to fall back on when agitated. They share this quirk with their relative the camel.
Many people enjoy raising alpacas and even make a profit from the endeavor.