The internet is full of adorable pictures of baby llamas and alpacas. But after reading the posts, I realized that the difference between the two remains obscure for most folks. I’m here to set the record straight and provide a quick guide to camelid care!
Llama and alpaca lingo
Intact male llamas and alpacas are called “studs.” Castrated males are “geldings.” Females are just called females. Llamas and alpacas that are under the age of 6 months are called “crias.” A juvenile is called a “tuis.” When a female is ready to mate, she will “cush” for the male which means lay down sternally. The male will then begin to vocalize which is called “orgling.”
What’s the difference between them?
First of all, their size should tell you right away whether you’re looking at a llama or an alpaca. An adult llama weighs about 400 pounds whereas an adult alpaca is only 150 pounds. Llamas have a longer face and more banana-shaped ears. Alpacas have a more smooshed face and short spear-shaped ears. Llamas do not have as much hair on their heads as alpacas do. Their purposes are also different. Llamas are typically raised for protection, pack, and meat animals whereas alpacas are raised for fiber.
The camelidae are split into the genus lama, vicugna, and camelus. Within the genus lama, you’ll find the llama and guanaco. The guanaco became domesticated over 5,000 years ago to create the llama.
Llamas have two varieties including the tampuli (thick, heavy coat) and the ccara (medium coat, bred for packing). Within the genus vicugna, you have the alpaca and the vicuna. The vicuna are even smaller than the alpaca and are not domesticated. The alpaca have two varieties being the huacaya (fluffy, teddy-bear-like fiber) and the suri (long, shaggy fiber). Under the genus camelus, are the dromedary (one hump) and the Bactrian (two humps).
Camelid vaccination protocols
As always, vaccination protocols are developed based on your specific region of the country and the animal’s risk. All camelids should be vaccinated with Clostridium perfringens types C and D as well as tetanus. If prevalent in your area, you may consider to vaccinate for anthrax and leptospirosis. Rabies, West Nile Virus, Eastern Equine Encephalitis, Equine Herpes Virus 1 (rhino), Rotavirus, and Coronavirus may be given as well based on risk.
Camelid parasite control
Llamas and alpacas can be dewormed with Ivermectin, albendazole, fenbendazole, and many others. Just contact your veterinarian for the dosage. Pour-ons typically are not very effective at penetrating their coats, therefore oral or injectable dewormers should be used. Frequency of administration should be decided by fecal egg counts.
Camelid routine care
Llamas and alpacas should have their nails trimmed as needed. If the animals are walking on a rough surface over long distances, they may not need to be trimmed very often. But if they are standing in soft ground and not walking much, they may need touched up every month.
If the llama or alpaca’s teeth grow past the front of the upper palate, the teeth will need to be trimmed. Some camelids never need their teeth trimmed whereas others may need it once a year. Shearing should be done at least once per year.
There you have it! Llamas and alpacas are no longer such a mystery.
Dr. Lainie Kringen-Scholtz works for Prairie View Veterinary Clinic.