Llama Vs Camel

Written by Colby Maxwell
Published: March 3, 2022
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Llamas and camels have been in close contact with humans for thousands of years, just on totally opposite sides of the globe. Most people know llamas as “spitting” animals that live in South America and know camels as “desert” animals that live in the Sahara. While those descriptions aren’t inaccurate, they aren’t totally complete. In fact, these two animals share a lot of similarities and are even related! Let’s explore: Llama Vs Camel; what makes them different?

Comparing a llama and a camel

The main differences between llamas and camels are their habitats, adaptations, and use by humans.


Llamas and camels are both members of the biological family Camelidae. There are 7 members of the family: three types of camels, llamas, alpacas, vicuñas, and guanacos. Essentially, camels and llamas share a recent common ancestor and have lots of similarities. Today, however, we are going to cover what makes them different.

HabitatMountains, high plateaus, elevations between 7,700-13,120 feetDesert, arid regions
DistributionNative to South America, domesticated and present all over the worldNative to North Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, domesticated and present worldwide
SizeWeight: 280-450lbsWeight: 660lbs – 1,500lbs
FeetSoft bottomed and extremely sensitive, small toenails on each footSoft, flat feet to stay on top of sand
AdaptationsHigh levels of hemoglobin, low water needsLocalized fat stores, near-perfect water retention, eyelashes for sand
Use by humansPack animals, can carry 18-20% of their weight all-dayPack animals, revolutionized human civilization

The 5 Key Differences Between LLamas and Camels

The main differences between a llama and a camel are their habitat and range, their ecological adaptations, and their use by humans.

Llamas originate from South America after going extinct in North America after the last ice age. They prefer mountainous regions, open plains, and can live in a farm environment. Camels originate from North Africa, the Middle East, and well into Asia and India. Only a tiny population is found in the wild, and they prefer deserts, open scrublands, and arid environments.

Llamas have specialized feet with soft, sensitive bottoms, allowing them to be incredibly sure-footed and cause less damage to their native habitat. Additionally, they have heightened levels of hemoglobin in their blood to help them get oxygen in the extreme elevations they can sometimes live. Camels are quite famous for their adaptations. Among them are large, flat feet to stop from sinking in the sand, thick top fur to protect from the sun, and localized fat stores (hump) to help with heat loss.

Let’s explore these differences, plus some others, in detail below.

Llama Vs Camel: Habitat

Llama Vs Camel
Llamas prefer mountainous plateaus, while camels prefer deserts and arid regions.


Llamas are native to the high mountain ranges in South America. They prefer places in the Andes Mountains that are between 7,550 to 13,120 feet of elevation. Llamas prefer high plateaus with shrubs and stunted trees, plus some grasses. They are hardy animals, however, and can live in a variety of environments.

Camels are also hardy animals, just in a different way. They are suited to the harsh desert regions of the world and have made their claim as some of the best desert survivors ever to live. Camels prefer deserts, prairies, and steppes and are suited to live in hot and cold environments. Although many believe they only live in hot places, their climates can range from 20F to 120F, and camels take it all in stride.

Llama Vs Camel: Distribution

Llamas and camels came from a common ancestor but have since split into their own regions of the world. Llamas are native to the Andes region of South America (although they were almost wiped out by colonists). Peru, Ecuador, Argentina, Bolivia, and Chile are all places where wild llamas have lived for thousands of years. Since llamas have become relevant to farmers, they can now be found on farms almost everywhere in the world.

Camels had a native range spanning from North Africa, the Middle East, and much of Asia. Now, there is only a tiny population of truly wild camels (the wild Bactrian camel) that live on the steppes of northwestern China and Mongolia. There are likely only 1000 wild camels left in the world. Aside from wild camels, feral and domesticated camels still live in much of the world, even overseas in America and Australia.

Llama Vs Camel: Size

Llama Vs Camel
Camels are large animals and weigh more than llamas do.

©Cezary Wojtkowski/Shutterstock.com

Llamas are some of the largest animals in South America, likely in second or third place behind the tapir. On average, they weigh between 280-450lbs and stand about 4 feet high at the shoulder. Although they are in the same family as camels, they are much smaller.

Camels are the largest members of the Camelidae and are present in three species, all of which are larger than llamas. The heaviest species of camel (the Bactrian camel) can weigh up to 2,200 lbs, while the smallest species (the Arabian camel) weighs up to 1,320 lbs.

Llama Vs Camel: Feet

Llamas and camels have specialized feet since camelid feet aren’t adapted into hooves. The foot of a llama is divided into two toes with a small nail on each. They are incredibly sensitive and adapted to climbing tough terrain without harming the native wildlife underfoot. With their sensitive feet, llamas are some of the surest-footed animals in the world.

Camels don’t have hooves either. Instead, they have a wide, flat foot that is perfect for standing on top of shifting sand. Their toe bones fuse into a broad pad that allows them to move across environments that other animals would find impassible.

Llama Vs Camel: Adaptations

Llamas and camels have different adaptations for their own ecological niches.

©Wolfgang Zwanzger/Shutterstock.com

Other environmental adaptations for llamas:

  • increased hemoglobin for oxygenating blood in high elevations
  • thick fur to protect from bites
  • ability to spit
  • can run at speeds of 40 mph

Other environmental adaptations for camels:

  • thick top fur to prvide sun protection
  • little to no water loss through urinationa and perspiration
  • specialized nostrils and double eyelashes to protect from sand
  • localized fat stores to aid in heat loss

Llama Vs Camel: Use as pack animals

Llamas and camels were instrumental in their respective regions as pack animals. Llamas were used by the Incan peoples as pack animals and were likely domesticated 5,000 years ago. They can carry 18-20% of their weight for extended periods of time (and larger percentages if going shorter distances). Additionally, they are some of the surest-footed pack animals in the world, making them perfectly suited to life in the mountains.

Camels allowed the transportation of goods across the Old World. Camels can carry between 400-600 lbs on their back, even across sand and desert environments. Without camels, cross-continent trade likely wouldn’t have been possible as the Silk Road went through some of the harshest environments in the world.

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About the Author

Colby is a freelance writer from Charlotte, North Carolina. When he isn't distracted by his backyard birdfeeder, you can find him camping, exploring, and telling everyone around him about what he's recently learned. There's a whole world to learn about and Colby is content to spend his life learning as much as he can about it!

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