Guanaco Vs Alpaca: What Are The Differences?

Both the guanacos and alpacas are curiously looking creatures with pointy ears and soft wool. These two come from the same family camels come from, the Camelidae. Guanacos and alpacas are both herbivores and very social animals. 

While they both eat plants and come from the same place in South America, the Andes, guanacos, and alpacas differ substantially from one another. 

Guanacos are, along with vicunas, the only South American camelid that is wild. Alpacas, just like the llamas, got domesticated some 6,000 years ago.

If you saw a guanaco and an alpaca one next to the other, could you spot all the differences?

Continue reading to discover more about these amazing creatures and how they differ from one another.

Visual Differences

guanaco vs alpaca side by side

The coats of the guanaco and the alpaca are different. Guanaco has fine wool, typically brown with white parts on the lower parts of the body. Their head is gray. On the other hand, alpacas are fluffier and have more coarse wool that can be brown, white, gray, black, cream, or even fawn. 

Another difference between these animals is their size. Guanacos are a lot bigger and heavier than alpacas and weigh around 200 pounds on average. Alpacas have an average weight of just 155 pounds. Guanacos are also taller than alpacas with longer legs and tails. Both of these animals have pointy ears they use to spot predators with.

At A Glance

CharacteristicsGuanacoAlpaca
Size3.7 ft (112 cm) 3 ft (90 cm) 
Weight200 lb (90 kg)154.3 lb (70 kg)
Lifespan12-16 years15-20 years 
DomesticationWildDomesticated
DietHerbivoreHerbivore
EarsLong and pointyShort and pointy
ColorLight to dark reddish-brown above, whitish hair belowBrown, black, white, fawn, gray, or a mix of those colors
Fiber 14-15 microns20-35 microns
*per Grzimek’s Animal Life Encyclopedia (2003)

Guanaco Overview

guanaco

Characteristics And Appearance

Guanaco is a wild Andean mammal similar to the domestic alpaca. It has an average height of 3.7 ft (112 cm) and weighs around 200 lb (90 kg).

Guanacos have slender bodies, relatively short wool that has a light brown color. The area around their stomach, lower parts of the body, and the inner sides of the legs are white. Guanacos have brown feet and a collar of white hair at the lower part of the neck.

Their head is big and the muzzle is elongated. Guanacos are easy to recognize by the grey color of the head and snout, and the long pointy ears.

Read More: Animals With Huge Foreheads

Habitat

Guanacos can be found throughout most of Argentina, Peru, Chile, Bolivia, and Paraguay.

They usually live in grasslands and shrublands that range from sea level to over 11,482 ft (3,500 m).

Uses

Indigenous people of South America used guanacos meat as food, their hides to make clothes, their bezoar stones in medicine, and their fiber for sewing.

To get their fiber and meat, the natives organized hunting parties to catch the animals. These hunts were known as chakkus and were organized by the Inca emperor himself. They would only hunt the males; Inkas released females after shearing them. This kept their populations steady, at least before the Spanish conquistadors almost exterminated guanacos.

Wool

Guanacos have very soft and high-quality wool. It has a small diameter, between 14 and 15 microns (the lower the micron number, the higher the quality of wool). The fibers are short and produced in low quantities.

Because they have not been domesticated, guanacos have an insignificant commercial importance today.

Lifespan

Guanacos and alpacas are both classified as camelids. And camelids generally have a shorter lifespan in the wild than in a domesticated state. 

Guanacos rarely survive for more than 12 years, although there have been cases of males being 16 years old. They do not like contact with people, and if you try to capture them, they will refuse to eat, and starve themselves to death. 

Read More: Differences Between Guanacos And Vicunas

Alpaca Overview

alpaca

Characteristics And Appearance

Alpacas are long-haired domesticated South American mammals related to guanacos, llamas, vicunas, and camels. 

An alpaca is smaller than guanaco, can reach 3 ft (90 cm) in height, and weigh around 154.3 lb (70 kg).

They have a small head, shorty pointy ears, a smaller snout than guanacos, and a very long neck. Their entire body is covered in long, thick, and soft wool. Occasionally, males will have head hair overgrow and cover their eyes.

Alpacas come in 22 different colors, ranging from black, brown, gray, to white. 

Read More: Amazing-looking animals with pointy ears

Habitat

Alpacas can be found in Peru, Bolivia, and Chile, at elevations going from 9,840 up to 15,750 ft (3,000–4,800 m). They live in humid places of the Andean high plateaus where tender grass can grow.

The largest Alpaca populations can be found in Peru.

Uses

The natives of South America have been using alpacas for their fine wool, hide, meat, and dung. Incas were selectively breeding the animals for their soft fiber and fine textiles. 

Today, people raise alpacas to sell their wool, but also for their meat – some say that alpaca meat is tastier than the meat of a llama. 

Andean people also use their dung as fuel in areas where there are no trees to supply wood.

Because of their cute looks, docile and gregarious personalities, many people keep them as pets or show animals on their farms or at zoos.

Peru holds a national Alpaca Day every 1st of August in honor of its most lucrative animal.

Wool 

Alpaca’s wool is one of its most commercialized aspects. The fine and soft fiber is preferred by the textile industry and artisan producers. 

Alpaca fiber measures from 20 to 35 microns and is said to be 7 times warmer than sheep wool.

Lifespan

Alpacas are domesticated animals. This increased their lifespan compared to guanacos. Alpacas live between 15 and 20 years.

The world’s oldest recorded alpaca called the “Vomiting Violet”, died at the age of 29.

Read More: Differences between Alpacas And Vicunas

Highlights of Differences Between Guanacos & Alpacas

While guanacos and alpacas come from the same animal family, these two mammals differ in many ways. Here are a few major differences:

  • Colors: Guanacos usually have a brown color of their wool with white parts on the inside parts of their legs. Alpacas can be black, brown, white, gray, or multiple-colored.
  • Domestication: Guanacos are a wild species roaming the Andes in South America that gave rise to llamas; alpacas, on the other hand, are domesticated animals that evolved from vicunas.
  • Wool: both animals are valued for their wool, but guanacos have a lot finer fiber than alpacas. Alpaca wool, on the other hand, is more commercialized and produced at a larger scale.
  • Lifespan: Guanacos have a lot shorter lifespan than alpacas, around 5-8 years. Guanacos live about 12 years while alpacas about 15.

Now that you understand the major similarities and differences between guanacos and alpacas, you should have no problem distinguishing them apart from one another when you see them in a photo or live in the wild.

Read more: Guanacos And Llamas – major differences