Millennial LegacyMonday, 20 de July de 2020
Alpaca, llama and guanaco: differences and similarities
Peruvian camelids and their friendly bond with mankind.
Take a look at Peru’s national coat of arms. On the upper left side you will notice a brown four-legged animal with a long neck, short ears and a pointed nose. This is a vicuña. Vicuñas are Andean camelids, as are alpacas, llamas and guanacos.
But what's a little animal like this doing on Peru’s main currency? Honor has to be earned. The friendship between camelids and Peruvians dates back 5,000 years, when Peruvians began to domesticate them. At first, it was a matter of survival: the meat and skin provided warmth and food.
But, with time, the bond became more human: there is not a child in the Andes who hasn’t had a vicuña, a llama or even a guanaco as a pet at some point in their life. These docile little animals soon earn the affection of their owners, who raise them as if they were part of the family.
That's why it's surprising that there are still some people who aren't able to tell the difference between them. But don’t worry, we’re going to tell you how to tell an alpaca from a llama and a guanaco.
Alpaca versus llama
Until quite recently, experts believed that the alpaca was descended from the llama, but more recent studies suggest that the alpaca originates more from the vicuña. Hence its scientific name: Vicugna pacos. On the other hand, the llama comes from the Llama genus (Lama glama) and is more associated with the guanaco. That's the first difference.
Next, the alpaca is smaller: it measures, on average 3 feet, 7 inches from neck to legs, weighs 99 to 150 pounds, has a chubby and fluffy face and its ears are small and pointed. Some might say it looks like a teddy bear! The llama, on the other hand, weighs between 198 and 348 pounds, has longer ears and nose and is more likely to spit. That's another difference.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, alpaca fiber is much finer and silkier, and its color is usually more uniform. That is why the ancient pre-Hispanic cultures considered alpaca clothing to be a symbol of distinction and status, a tradition that has been maintained even through the passage of time.
PROMPERU promotes the trade of alpaca fiber as a flagship national product that benefits more than 120,000 Peruvian families.
The sectoral brands Perú Moda and Alpaca del Perú promote the fine fleece of both the Huacaya and Suri alpacas through major fashion events around the world.
Llama fiber is also highly appreciated, although it is thicker and varies from white to dark brown. Apart from that, both animals are herbivores, they travel in herds and know how to get angry when the situation calls for it.
The least hairy: the guanaco
The largest wild artiodactyl – a hoofed, even-toed mammal – in South America is the guanaco (Lama guanicoe). However, it’s not as big as it sounds. Compared to the other two camelids, the guanaco measures up to 4 feet 3 inches and can weigh up to 198 pounds. It has small, pointed ears – which are almost always alert – brown, bulging eyes, and its sparse coat may be of different shades of brown.
From time immemorial, the relationship between these camelids and the locals has been extremely friendly. Most tourists who visit the Altiplano also look for them to take a selfie or hang out with them while enjoying the charming landscape of the Peruvian highlands.
Peruvian alpaca stands out at showcase events and on catwalks around the world
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The world needs alpaca (and it comes from Peru)
The Puno region is the epicenter of one of the most elegant fibers on the planet.