Llamas and alpacas have become increasingly popular in the last decade. They are becoming an in-demand pet option for those who have enough space to house these magnificent animals. The fluffy docile giants, llamas, and their cousins, alpacas offer many advantages beyond just being pets. At first look, these animals may look the same, but there are some important differences. Which one is better?
Alpacas are generally kinder and gentler than llamas, while llamas are calmer, larger, and better at guarding other livestock. Both give fiber, though alpaca fiber is softer and more luxurious. Both can be pack animals, though llamas can carry more weight. The “better” animal will depend on the homestead.
Both are amazing animals, but there are some important distinctions between the two that will help you see which one will be better for your situation. Ready to look deeper into the temperaments of these beautiful animals and see which one might be the right one for your homestead? Let’s do this.
What’s the Difference Between Llamas and Alpacas?
At first glance alpacas and llamas may look the same. The similarities people often notice are because both llamas and alpacas belong to the camelid family. But on closer inspection, it becomes very obvious these two animals have many noticeable differences in both physical traits and personalities.
For starters, llamas are much larger than alpacas. Llamas can range anywhere from 400 to 500 pounds on average. Alpacas are much smaller in size, averaging closer to 200 pounds (for large alpacas). Another obvious physical difference between llamas and alpacas is the shape of their heads. Alpacas have more of smaller faces with shorter ears. Llamas have longer faces with long ears.
Another important difference to note between these two animals is their coat. The fibers of alpaca are much softer and more luxurious than llama fibers. They are often used for sweaters, clothing, and socks. Some even view alpaca fleece as a better alternative to sheep wool. Llama coats are much more coarse than alpaca and are not generally sourced for clothing. Instead, the tough course fibers can be used in rugs. Llamas are usually kept for guarding and protection rather than their hair.
Personality-wise, alpacas tend to be kinder and gentler than their larger cousins. But on the flip side? Llamas tend to be better guards for other livestock than alpacas.
Are Llamas or Alpacas Friendlier?
The friendliness of alpacas and llamas can really be understood by the nature vs. nurture debate.
- Both animals possess personality traits that are going to enhance and hinder their friendliness towards humans. This is the “nature” part of the equation. If you haven’t established a bond with animals you’ll see more of the traits that would make them unfriendly.
- This brings us to the nurture aspects. But if you have a good bond, then you’ll enjoy a more fruitful and friendlier relationship.
When researching this question I found a lot of conflicting information. One source would say that alpacas are more skittish towards humans. While llamas, due to their bold nature, are more comfortable around humans. Thus making the llama the friendlier animal out of the two.
Another source however would say the opposite. Typically alpacas are more tolerant of humans and llamas can be more aggressive. This is due to the llama’s own social hierarchy that is always changing. Their social status can be changed by either moving up or down in social ranking by picking small fights. Their large stature and aggressive behavior can make them intimidating and hazardous to be around.
With differing perspectives on the topic, it’s hard to come to a clear answer. But after doing some more reading it becomes clear that they can both be friendly or unfriendly. I’ve realized it really boils down to how the animal has been raised and the correct socialization.
My experience with these animals agrees with my research. It really does boil down to how the animal was raised and socialized around people. Either animal can be an absolute joy to have on your homestead. And if it isn’t? Your backyard homestead should be a joy – not a burden. Aggressive or sad animals should be rehomed into another environment that could help them be happier.
Which Pet is Better: An Alpaca or a Llama?
When thinking of getting either a pet alpaca or a llama it’s important to have realistic expectations. This means to clarify what pet means in this instance. A llama and alpaca are both domesticated animals but they are not domesticated to the same degree as a cat or a dog. With this in mind, both creatures can still be wonderful to keep around as pets who live in a backyard or on a homestead.
Llamas and alpacas don’t enjoy being handled as regularly as cats or dogs. But with good socialization and proper rearing, they can learn to tolerate it or even enjoy it. When trying to decide between the two it may come down simply to space. Both llamas and alpacas are social creatures and require a lot of space. They will not fare well on their own and require a herd to be happy and healthy.
Alpacas will need at least another alpaca but ideally two to three more animals to meet this herd requirement. Llamas also need a herd but they’re not as picky as to who’s in the herd with them. They are more likely to consider adopting other hooved animals as their companion.
Llamas have also been known to have a calmer temperament than alpacas as they’re not as fearful and used to being around humans more. This might be due to their working history and size.
Llamas have also been used as guard animals instead of dogs.
They’re large in size, however, but that can be scary for small children. This makes alpacas the more desirable choice for smaller children. Alpacas also provide the added bonus of better fiber quality that can be sold for a higher price.
Deciding between a llama or an alpaca as a pet will depend on the amount of space you have and the other motivators for keeping these animals.
Which is Better on a Homestead: a Llama or an Alpaca?
If you have space, then these animals make an amazing addition to any homestead. Both these wonderful animals will bring a lot of joy.
But if you had to choose between the two – which one is the better choice for your homestead? The answer to that question will lie in another question: what is your intention for wanting a llama or alpaca?
|Primary Need or Concern||Alpaca||Llama|
|Livestock guardian||Good at guarding sheep||Best choice for guarding animals|
|Fiber production||Best choice for the best fiber||Produces fiber, but it’s not as soft as alpaca fiber|
|Pack animal||Can carry a small load||Best choice for carrying a load|
|Animal size||100-200 pounds||400-500 pounds|
|Herd size||2-3 alpacas (or animals) in a herd||2-3 llamas (or animals) in a herd|
|Land requirements||Alpacas need at least 0.1 acres of pasture and will need hay, too||Llamas usually need more land than alpacas|
|Mixed-species herds||Alpacas may adopt or guard other hoofed animals in a mixed-species herd||Llamas are more likely to adopt and guard other hoofed animals in a mixed-species herd|
|Mixing genders||Best to keep males and females separate unless breeding||Best to keep males and females separate unless breeding|
|Mixed-gender, mixed-species herds||Not recommended||Not recommended|
For example, if you would also like an easy-to-train guardian then a llama will generally be the optimal choice. But if you’re looking to commercialize these animals for clothing for you to wear or to sell… well then alpacas would be your better option.
The size of the animal could be another determining factor. For us, a llama is too big. We need a smaller animal because we have small children who think our friend’s 120-pound guard dog is “too scary.” So even though the thought of a pack llama is super appealing for camping trips, we’re leaning more towards alpacas. At least for the time being.
Space is another determining factor.
- Alpacas need ideally two to three other herd members – or they become distressed and need more space. Some alpacas will adopt goats or sheep as part of their herd.
- Llamas also need another companion and shouldn’t be left alone. But they’re generally less picky on who joins their herd.
The right decision for your homestead will depend on your own individual needs and your available space.
Are Llamas or Alpacas More Aggressive?
As we’ve discussed above the right socialization and upbring carries over into aggression as well. The role of upbringing and socialization is very important in determining if llamas will be friendly and pleasant or not.
If llamas are bottle-fed, over-handled, or over-socialized when younger, it can (counterintuitively) lead to aggressive behavior as an adult. This is because the llama will associate with the human as one of its herd members and llamas don’t play nice with the herd members. Llamas often engage with one another by spitting, kicking, and neck wrestling. This aggressive behavior with llamas can be especially startling due to their size. Llamas are not small.
Similarly, alpacas are not aggressive naturally. Aggression and dangerous behaviors aren’t something that happens but are created by humans. Similar to llamas, if an alpaca views the humans as a member of the herd then there’s usually a problem. Alpacas will bite, kick, and chest bump to communicate and interact with one another. These same actions towards humans can be seen as aggressive and scary.
Whether your llama and alpaca become aggressive will largely depend on your relationship with them. Determining which one is more aggressive or friendly isn’t really as important as determining the innate qualities and nurturing them in the right way.
Do Alpacas and Llamas Get Along?
Llamas and alpacas can live together – but should they? The issue isn’t with the two animals, but rather with their genders. The two animals should be separated by gender rather than species. This is because eager males can actually hurt their female counterparts, especially during the breeding season.
This may not be a big deal if you’re keeping male alpacas with female llamas – unless the female llamas decide they’re sick of the unwanted attention. A llama can seriously damage an alpaca, just due to the size difference.
So it’s safer to keep male and female animals separate – no matter which mixture of alpacas and llamas you get. If you don’t have enough space to keep the genders separate, then consider getting a mixed herd of a single-gender.
It is also important to note that llamas and alpacas can mate with one another and have offspring; this however is not advisable. When bred together, the llamas and alpacas’ progeny lack the desirable qualities of either animal. It does not possess the lovely fleece of the alpaca or have the strength of the llama. Think mule – but cuter and less useful.
Do alpacas and llamas get along with other animals?
Llamas and alpacas do well together but that does not guarantee they will do well with other livestock, too.
It’s important to introduce new mixed-species herd members slowly and to observe how things go. Look for signs of aggression. If one member of the herd is also acting aggressively towards the herd, then it is best to separate them. They should stay in their own area or may do well with the goat herds if you already have goats.
Because apparently everyone loves goats – even alpacas and llamas. 🙂
Key Takeaways on Alpacas and Llamas
Alpacas and llamas have many similarities that might deceive people into thinking they’re the same. But as we’ve learned they have their noticeable differences, with their own unique traits.
Their friendliness or aggression can’t just be pinned down to nature. Nurture also plays a vital role in how the animal will turn out.
Deciding which one is right for your homestead will depend on what you’re looking for in a pet or as a livestock addition to your homestead.
But the added advantage, if you’d like to keep them both, is that they could stay together. Just remember to separate the females from the males regardless of the animal. Whatever you choose, llama or alpaca, you won’t be disappointed. They really are amazing animals.
For us, we’re looking more at alpacas than llamas, due to the size of the animals when compared to our young children. Could we change our minds in the future? Absolutely.
Make sure you check out all of the articles we’ve written about llamas and alpacas if you’ve got more questions. And if we haven’t answered it yet? Contact me and I’ll fix that ASAP.
Learning from your own experience is important, but learning from others is also smart. These are the sources used in this article and our research to be more informed as homesteaders.
- You can read more about our research about and experiences with alpacas here: https://backyardhomesteadhq.com/category/pets-and-livestock/alpacas/
- Read more about everything we’ve learned about llamas here: https://backyardhomesteadhq.com/category/pets-and-livestock/llamas/