Posted by: travelrat | February 18, 2018

Llamas and Alpacas


I remember an early lesson from school:

‘One L, two legs; two Ls, four legs’

In other words, a llama was the South American pack animal, and a lama was the baldy-headed guy in an orange robe, who lived in Tibet.

It used to be, if you wanted to see a llama, you went to South America or the zoo, but nowadays, quite a few people in this country keep llamas on their land. I’m not quite sure why; maybe they keep the grass down; maybe they just like having them around.

More common is the alpaca farm; where the animals are bred for their superior wool. I once visited a nearby alpaca farm, to research a feature for a local magazine, and was lucky enough not only to speak to the owner, but to an itinerant shearer who came round to clip them.

(I was delighted to discover that I went to school with his father … but that’s another story!!)

From these two gentlemen, I learned several things. The shearer said it was a different skill to shearing sheep, as alpaca wool contains no lanolin, so he had to stop to lubricate his shears more often. I wanted to know if any other products could be obtained from the alpaca. Milk or cheese? … no; an alpaca doesn’t produce much milk, and that’s all for the cria, or young alpaca.


How about meat? I said. Well, we don’t, I was told … we don’t know what they do in South America, but we’ve never really thought about it. We’re only interested in the wool.

It was in Peru that we found they did eat alpaca. Not unpleasant, but, given the choice between alpaca and mutton, I think I’d have chosen the latter.

The following day, a group of Peruvian kids showed us their alpacas. The kids were all dressed traditionally, in bright, woollen clothing, so obviously the Peruvians, too, mainly breed them for their wool. But, they probably eat them, too … after all, they also eat guinea pigs!


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