What are the differences and similarities between guanaco and a llama? We get this question often when talking about these animals.
At a glance, llamas and guanacos look very much alike. They are both covered in soft fur and have elongated snouts. They have long necks and legs, and very mobile lips.
But these two animals are quite different.
The main difference between guanacos and llamas is their color, size, domestication, ear shape, and wool quality. Llamas are bigger, taller, and come in many wool colors. Guanacos have better quality wool.
In this article, we will explore what makes llamas and guanacos similar and different so that you can understand them better.
Table of Contents
Technically, Guanacos And Llamas Are Camels
They might not have humps like camels do, but llamas, guanacos, and camels are all related. Together with vicunas and alpacas, they all belong to the Camelidae family.
Around 45 million years ago, a tiny camel called Protylopus lived in North America. It was small at first, but as time went by, it evolved, grew bigger, and migrated more.
Then, 6.5 million years ago that camel went into Asia and spread around the Old World. Llama and guanaco’s ancestors moved into South America 3 million years ago and gave rise to all of the New World camels – llamas, vicunas, alpacas, and guanacos.
6,000-7,000 years ago people in the Andes started domesticating guanacos – those tamed animals are now known as llamas.
A Quick Overview
|Size||3.8 ft (115 cm)||3.7 ft (112 cm)|
|Weight||308.6 lb (140 kg)||200 lb (90 kg)|
|Lifespan||15 to 25 years||12-16 years|
|Color||Brown, black, white, gray, or mix||Light to dark reddish/brown above, white hair below|
|Fiber||20-40 microns||14-15 microns|
Let’s start talking about what these two have in common.
Guanacos And Llamas Come From The Same Place
Llamas and guanacos both live in the Andean mountains in South America.
Guanacos can be found throughout most of Argentina, parts of Peru, Chile, Bolivia, and Paraguay. They inhabit grasslands and shrublands ranging from sea level to over 11,482 ft (3,500 m).
Llamas are spread throughout Bolivia, Peru, Argentina, Chile, Ecuador, and Colombia, at altitudes from 7,550 to 13,120 ft (2,300–4,000 m).
Guanacos And Llamas Walk The Same Way
What makes these two animals similar is the way they walk. When they walk, both the guanacos and the llamas move legs on the same part of the body forward at the same time. After that, they do the same with legs on the opposite side of the body.
This, so-called ipsilateral way of walking, prevents their legs from hitting one another and tripping and gives them a longer stride. This makes them look like they are swinging while walking.
Both Have Long Legs, Necks, And Snouts
Llamas and guanacos have long necks that help them reach taller vegetation and spot incoming predators.
A llama has a neck about 24 inches (60 cm) long, while a guanaco has a neck around 18 inches (45 cm).
Their long and flexible necks make it easy for them to see over bushes and tall grass. Occasionally, they will use their necks to wrestle with other males in a fight for dominance.
The snouts of llamas are long and bear a striking resemblance to those of guanacos – after all, llamas originated from guanacos.
We can find more similarities between guanacos and llamas, but we believe that these are the more relevant ones. Now, let’s talk about the things that make them different.
The first striking difference between llama and guanaco is the color: almost all guanacos have a fawn-brown coat color with white underparts.
Llamas, on the other hand, can be black, brown, white, grey or, a combination of these colors, with a piebald or speckled pattern.
Another difference is that guanacos have a gray color of their snout; in llamas, it mostly matches their coat color.
Compared to guanacos, llamas are slightly taller animals.
Llamas are around 3.8 ft (115 cm) tall, while guanacos are 1 ft shorter and have a height of around 3.7 ft (112 cm).
When it comes to weight, llamas are heavier than guanacos.
Llamas weigh about 308.6 lb (140 kg), guanacos a lot less, around 200 lb (90 kg).
Llamas are domesticated animals that originated from the guanaco. They only exist today in their domesticated form. Guanacos (and vicunas) are the only two South American camelids that exist in their wild form.
Guanacos prefer to have little or no contact with humans, and if they are held in captivity, they will starve themselves to death. Llamas, on the other hand, are friendly towards humans, show curiosity, and like interacting with them.
Llamas are easy to recognize by their long and curved, almost banana-shaped ears. Guanacos have large but pointed ears.
Guanaco’s ears more resemble ones of a vicuna, than those of a llama.
Both animals are treasured for their wool, one a lot more than the other.
When it comes to accessing the quality of wool, people check the diameter of the fiber. The diameter is measured in microns (μm), one-millionth of a meter. The lower the micron, the better the wool.
Llama wool ranges from 20 to 40 microns, while guanaco has wool from 14 to 15 microns.
This means that the wool of a guanaco is softer and of a higher quality than that of a llama. Because they are not domesticated, and the wool is hard to acquire, guanaco wool is very expensive.
As you can see, guanacos and llamas may share a lot of similarities, but their size, wool, ear shapes, and personality gave them different relationships with humans.
People domesticated llamas, and have been using them as pack animals and for their milk, meat, wool. Guanacos remained living in the wild, roaming free in the vast mountains of the Puna.
These two animals can also breed. A male guanaco and female llama will produce the llamo-guanaco or llanaco.