Camelids | Camelidae

Camelids are a biological family of herbivorous even-toed ungulates characterized by their large bodies, slender necks and long legs. Found in remote locations from the Middle East, Northern Africa, Central Asia, and the Andes region in South America, camelids have evolved as separate distinct species adapted to their harsh individual contexts. The smaller South American camelids, which includes the Llama, Guanaco, Alpaca, and Vicuña, are characterized by their desirable thick wool coats and toes for gripping rock terrain. In the Afro-Asian contexts, camelids such as the Bactrian camel and the Dromedary camel have developed to survive their almost waterless habitats.

What is the fiber that camelids produce?

The fiber that camelids produce is actually their hair and each type of fiber has its own characteristics. The camelids family includes alpacas, llamas, vicunas, and guanacos. The vicuna fiber is sought for its softness and fineness, while the alpaca fiber is desired for its quality and quantity. Camelid fiber was used mostly in South American, specifically Andean textiles.

Why are camelids not true ruminants?

Camelids are not true ruminants because although they both have multiple compartments in their stomachs, ruminants have four compartments in their stomachs while camelids have three. The four compartments of a ruminant’s stomach are called the rumen, reticulum, omasum, and abomasum. The three compartments of a camelid’s stomach are called C-1, C-2, and C-3. Ruminant animals include cattle, sheep, buffalo, deer, and goats.

Why do camelids spit?

Camelids spit for a variety of reasons and can spit up to 10 feet away. A female camelid may spit at an interested male to let him know she is not interested, while both female and males may spit to keep others away from their food. Spitting is also used to warn possible aggressors. Some camelids may spit with little provocation.

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Vicuña
Size comparison drawing of a Vicuña to the height of a woman with dimensions labeled for heights and body length

The Vicuña is one of the two wild South American camelids that live in the high alpine areas of the Andes, with the other species being the Guanaco. The Vicuña is highly prized for its fine coat, which can only be shone every three years. The fine fibers of their coat have been desired since Incan times, when garments made from Vicuña wool were reserved for royalty only. The Vicuña is the national animal of Peru and is protected by conservationists after a brief stint on the endangered animals list in 1974. Despite being previously considered distinct from the Alpaca and the Llama, recent DNA research has revealed potential wild Vicuña parentage in domesticated Alpaca.

The average Vicuña has an overall height of 49"-52" (124-132 cm), withers height of 34"-36" (86-90 cm), and body length of 60"-72" (152-183 cm). A typical Vicuña weighs between 77-144 lb (35-65 kg) and has a lifespan of roughly 20-24 years.

Collection of front and side elevation illustrations of Vicuña in various postures from eating to standing upright
The Vicuña is one of the two wild South American camelids that live in the high alpine areas of the Andes. The Vicuña is highly prized for its fine coat, which can only be shone every three years and is the national animal of Peru.

The average Vicuña has an overall height of 49"-52" (124-132 cm), withers height of 34"-36" (86-90 cm), and body length of 60"-72" (152-183 cm). A typical Vicuña weighs between 77-144 lb (35-65 kg) and has a lifespan of roughly 20-24 years.

Collection of front and side elevation illustrations of Vicuña in various postures from eating to standing upright
Vicuña
Height:
49"-52" | 124-132 cm
Width:
Length:
60"-72" | 152-183 cm
Depth:
Withers Height (Shoulder)
34"-36" | 86-90 cm
Weight:
77-144 lb | 35-65 kg
Area:

Uses: Wool

Vicugna vicugna
Lifespan
20-24 years

Drawings include:
Vicuña side elevation (standing), side (person), front, eating, back

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Bactrian Camel
Dimensioned drawing of a Bactrian Camel standing next to a man for scale with measurements for heights and width

The Bactrian Camel is a two-humped camelid residing in the Central and Eastern Asian Desert and is closely related, but wholly distinct from, the Wild Bactrian Camel, Camelus ferus. With its tolerance for both hot and cold temperatures, adaptation for high altitudes, and endurance for many miles, the Bactrian Camel enabled trade along the Silk Road from 130 B.C. to 1453 A.D. as a versatile pack animal. While mostly domesticated, a small feral population still exists in southwest Kazakhstan and India. Similar to the Dromedary Camel, the Bactrian Camel rarely sweats, can close its nostrils to sand, and has two rows of eyelashes to protect his eyes.

The average Bactrian Camel has an overall height of 84" (7’) (2.13 m), withers height of 62"-71" (5’2”-5’11”) (157-180 cm), and body length of 89"-138" (7’5”-11’6”) (225-350 cm). A typical Bactrian Camel weighs between 990-1100 lb (450-500 kg) and has a lifespan of roughly 20-40 years; 50 (wild).

Illustrations of Bactrian Camels in various postures including walking, standing, and lying down
The Bactrian Camel is a two-humped camelid residing in Central and Eastern Asian Desert and is closely related to the Wild Bactrian Camel. Similar to the Dromedary Camel, the Bactrian Camel rarely sweats, can close its nostrils to sand, and has two rows of eyelashes to protect his eyes.

The average Bactrian Camel has an overall height of 84" (7’) (2.13 m), withers height of 62"-71" (5’2”-5’11”) (157-180 cm), and body length of 89"-138" (7’5”-11’6”) (225-350 cm). A typical Bactrian Camel weighs between 990-1100 lb (450-500 kg) and has a lifespan of roughly 20-40 years; 50 (wild).

Illustrations of Bactrian Camels in various postures including walking, standing, and lying down
Bactrian Camel
Height:
84" (7’) | 2.13 m
Width:
Length:
89"-138" (7’5”-11’6”) | 225-350 cm
Depth:
Withers Height (Shoulder)
62"-71" (5’2”-5’11”) | 157-180 cm
Weight:
990-1100 lb | 450-500 kg
Area:

Uses: Pack animal

Camelus bactrianus
Lifespan
20-40 years; 50 (wild)

Drawings include:
Bactrian Camel side elevation (standing), side (person), front, walking, lying down

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Dromedary Camel
Side elevation drawing of a Dromedary Camel compared to the height of a person with dimensions for heights and body length

The Dromedary Camel, also known as the Arabian Camel, is a one-humped camelid that resides primarily in Northern Africa, with a small feral population in Australia. The Dromedary Camel has not occurred in the wild for about 2,000 years after being domesticated about 4,000 in Arabian Peninsula. The Dromedary Camel is the tallest of all the camel species with a hump that can store up to 80 pounds of fat that can be converted to water in time of need. Due to its ability to store plenty of water reserves, the Dromedary Camel can cover distances of 100 miles in the desert and go several weeks without access to water.

The average Dromedary Camel has an overall height of 84" (7’) (2.13 m), withers height of 71"-78" (5’11”-6’6”) (180-198 cm), and body length of 86"-134" (7’2”-11’2”) (219-341 cm). A typical Dromedary Camel weighs between 880-1320 lb (400-600 kg) and has a lifespan of roughly 40-50 years.

Pair of illustrations of a Dromedary Camel viewed walking from the side and standing from behind
The Dromedary Camel is a one-humped camelid that resides in primarily in Northern Africa, with a small feral population in Australia. The Dromedary Camel is the tallest of all the camel species with a hump that can store up to 80 pounds of fat that can be converted to water in time of need.

The average Dromedary Camel has an overall height of 84" (7’) (2.13 m), withers height of 71"-78" (5’11”-6’6”) (180-198 cm), and body length of 86"-134" (7’2”-11’2”) (219-341 cm). A typical Dromedary Camel weighs between 880-1320 lb (400-600 kg) and has a lifespan of roughly 40-50 years.

Pair of illustrations of a Dromedary Camel viewed walking from the side and standing from behind
Dromedary Camel
Height:
84" (7’) | 2.13 m
Width:
Length:
86"-134" (7’2”-11’2”) | 219-341 cm
Depth:
Withers Height (Shoulder)
71"-78" (5’11”-6’6”) | 180-198 cm
Weight:
880-1320 lb | 400-600 kg
Area:

Uses: Pack animal

Camelus dromedarius
Lifespan
40-50 years

Drawings include:
Dromedary Cameld side elevation (standing), side (person), front, back, walking, lying down

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Alpaca
Scale illustration of an Alpaca and a young boy with dimensions

The Alpaca, a member of the camelid family from South America, is a domesticated relative of the Guanaco and the Vicuña who is bred for its luxurious, soft coat. The Alpaca is frequently confused with the llama, but while both domesticated South American camelids, they are two distinct species; the Alpaca being the smaller of the two, and the Llama being larger and used as a pack animal. There two types of Alpacas, the more common Huacayas, identifiable by their fluffy, teddy-bear like appearance, and the Suris, identifiable by their silky fleece that grows in locks. Alpaca fibers can come in as many as 52 natural colors from Peru, but only 12 and 16 are from Australia and the United States, respectively.

The average Alpaca has an overall height of 39.0"-46.0" (99-117 cm), withers height of 32.0"-39.0" (81-99 cm), and body length of 48.0"-84.0" (122-213 cm). A typical Alpaca weighs between 45-68 lb (100-175 kg) and has a lifespan of roughly 15-25 years.

Multiple drawings of Alpaca in various poses from walking to standing and lying down
The Alpaca, a member of the camelid family from South America, is a domesticated relative of the Guanaco and the Vicuña who is bred for its luxurious, soft coat. There two types of Alpacas, the more common fluffy Huacayas, and the Suris, identifiable by their silky fleece that grows in locks.

The average Alpaca has an overall height of 39.0"-46.0" (99-117 cm), withers height of 32.0"-39.0" (81-99 cm), and body length of 48.0"-84.0" (122-213 cm). A typical Alpaca weighs between 45-68 lb (100-175 kg) and has a lifespan of roughly 15-25 years.

Multiple drawings of Alpaca in various poses from walking to standing and lying down
Alpaca
Height:
39.0"-46.0" | 99-117 cm
Width:
Length:
48.0"-84.0" | 122-213 cm
Depth:
Withers Height (Shoulder)
32.0"-39.0" | 81-99 cm
Weight:
45-68 lb | 100-175 kg
Area:

Uses: Wool

Vicugna pacos
Lifespan
15-25 years

Drawings include:
Alpaca side elevation (standing), side (person), front, walking, lying down

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Guanaco
Size comparison illustration of a Guanaco compared to a typical woman with labeled standard measurements

The Guanaco, like the Vicuña, is a wild camelid that lives in the high elevations of the Andes. The Guanaco is the wild parent to the Llama, a the result of domesticating the Guanaco for use as pack animal, and the Alpaca, who is the result of domesticating the Guanaco for its coat. The Guanaco is an extremely speedy runner, capable of reaching speeds upwards of 40 miles per hour, and a talented swimmer. The Guanaco is a herd animal and has developed different ways of communicating which include, ear movements, vocalizations, spitting, and marking territory with dung.

The average Guanaco has an overall height of 57"-61" (145-155 cm), withers height of 39"-43" (100-110 cm), and body length of 82"-86" (210-220 cm). A typical Guanaco weighs between 200-310 lb (90-140 kg) and has a lifespan of roughly 20-25 years.

Set of elevation drawings of Guanaco in multiple poses from waking to standing upright
The Guanaco, like the Vicuña, is a wild camelid that lives in the high elevations of the Andes. The Guanaco is the wild parent to the Llama, who is the result of domesticating the Guanaco for use as pack animal, and the Alpaca, who is the result of domesticating the Guanaco for its coat.

The average Guanaco has an overall height of 57"-61" (145-155 cm), withers height of 39"-43" (100-110 cm), and body length of 82"-86" (210-220 cm). A typical Guanaco weighs between 200-310 lb (90-140 kg) and has a lifespan of roughly 20-25 years.

Set of elevation drawings of Guanaco in multiple poses from waking to standing upright
Guanaco
Height:
57"-61" | 145-155 cm
Width:
Length:
82"-86" | 210-220 cm
Depth:
Withers Height (Shoulder)
39"-43" | 100-110 cm
Weight:
200-310 lb | 90-140 kg
Area:

Uses: Wool

Lama guanicoe
Lifespan
20-25 years

Drawings include:
Guanaco side elevation (standing), side (person), front, back, walking

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