Can you ride an alpaca? Alpacas are so cute and adorable with their soft and fluffy hair. They are so domesticated and tamed that some people are tempted to jump on their backs like a horse or pony. In this article, I will discuss whether you can get on the back of an alpaca and go for a ride.
Are alpacas okay to ride? You should not ride or even sit on alpacas because they are not strong enough or built to support people. The weight of an average alpaca is just about 150 lbs. Its size is also smaller than llamas. In fact, riding an alpaca is considered as animal abuse by reputable alpaca breeders.
Only very small children who are perhaps 3 years old and below could ride an alpaca without hurting it. However, it is still best for children not to ride them.
Read on to learn more about why you shouldn’t ride an alpaca, including other interesting details about these cute and adorable animals.
Can You Ride an Alpaca?
An alpaca is a relatively small, tender, and slender animal. Alpacas have body weights and sizes that are no bigger than the larger breeds of dogs. So, you shouldn’t attempt riding on their backs. Full-grown alpaca males only weigh 120 to 170 lbs. In contrast, llamas, which can carry packs of bags, weigh 275 to 500 lbs.
Alpacas do not have the bone structure in their spines and legs to support the weight of an average adult human. If you ride on its back, you are taking the risk of damaging its spine and legs.
In South America, llamas are traditionally the beasts of burden, not alpacas. Alpacas are bred for their fleeces and not for their meat. Most reputable breeders consider it a form of animal abuse if you insist on riding an alpaca. You can also be charged with the offense.
Can People Ride Alpacas?
But suppose there is an alpaca that is exceptionally tall and heavily built. Would you go and try to ride on its back right away? No, that would be dangerous. You would have to train the animal first so that it will accept a saddle on its back.
Next, you have to put some weight on its back to see how it can handle the load. Then, you can try teaching the animal some basic riding commands without riding it. In short, there’ll be too much work you need to do first before you can successfully ride it.
So, you really can’t ride an alpaca, no matter how desperately you want to. Because of the negative consequences, you should not ride these animals. Alpacas, like llamas, can only carry one-third of their body weight. So, even if your body weight is only 100 lbs., and the alpaca’s body weight is 150 lbs., you can easily break its back.
Perhaps, you can allow a small child who weighs no more than 45 lbs. to sit on the back of an alpaca, only for picture-taking purposes. But don’t do it for an extended time because it may hurt the back of the animal. They are not like llamas, which are bigger and stronger. Llamas can carry loads, which alpacas cannot do.
What Are Alpacas?
Alpacas belong to the camel family, as do llamas, and are indigenous to many countries in South America. They are cute animals no larger than the bigger species of dogs. Moreover, they are closely related to llamas, which are bigger and more popular outside of South America. Their hairs are much sought after because they have more attractive features than the fleeces of sheep.
These adorable animals have a slender body. Their necks and legs are long. They have small heads, short tails, and large, pointed ears. You can easily differentiate them from llamas by their smaller size. An average alpaca stands about 35 inches (90 centimeters) high at the shoulder. Their weight can range from 120 to 170 lbs. (55 to 77 kg).
As you can see, alpacas have a small and frail body structure. They are not born for riding. These animals are also bred for their fleeces, which are sheared every two years once they reach their maturity.
In contrast, horses are animals that are naturally built for riding. They have body frames and weights that can carry or pull heavy loads. The heights of horses range from 4.66 to 5.58 feet (142 and 170 cm), and their weights range from 837.8 to 2,204.6 lbs. (380 and 1,000 kg).
Also, no one will charge you with animal abuse if you ride a horse on its back. But it wouldn’t be difficult to see that you are burdening an alpaca with your weight, even if you’re just trying to sit on its back for a few minutes. They are just like big dogs by their size and weight. You are not supposed to ride a dog, right?
Where Can You Find Alpacas?
Alpacas are indigenous to some countries in South America. You can find them in the marshy grounds and higher altitudes of the Andes from 13,000 to 15,700 ft. (4,000 to 4,800 m). Some say that these animals originated in Peru.
You can also find them in countries like Peru (central and southern areas), Bolivia, Ecuador, and Chile. Some alpacas are kept and bred in farms in other parts of the world, aside from South America. Alpacas are the most specialized in the camel family. They are also the most limited in range and are not capable of carrying people or loads.
What Are the Differences Between Alpacas and Llamas?
If you aren’t familiar with these animals, it would be hard for you to tell an alpaca from a llama. But it is really easy to notice their differences.
1. Alpacas Are Smaller than Llamas
On average, alpacas are only half the size of llamas. Llamas are not only heavier but are also bigger than alpacas. In terms of height, alpacas are just about 34 to 36 inches (no higher than 90 cm), while llamas stand taller, averaging 42 to 46 inches (more than 110 cm).
In terms of weight, alpacas weigh an average of 100 to 160 lbs. compared to the llamas’ 200 to 350 lbs. (90 to 158 kg). Their smaller size and lighter weight are not suitable for the transport of humans and cargo. It is their high-quality fleeces that make them valuable.
2. The Ears of Alpacas Are Slightly Different from the Ears of Llamas
The ears of alpacas are short, pointy, and straight. Llamas’ ears are long like bananas with a curved shape.
3. Their Hairs or Fleeces Are Different
The hairs or fleeces of alpacas are finer. They are also fast-growing; that is why they are very dense. Their fluffy hairs also cover their faces. Llamas’ hairs, on the other hand, have a coarse outer coat and fine undercoat.
4. Their Faces Are Different
The faces of alpacas are blunt while the faces of llamas are long. As mentioned before, there are more hairs on the heads of alpacas than the heads of llamas. This characteristic makes the faces of alpacas cute and adorable.
5. They Have a Different Temperament
As far as temperament is concerned, alpacas tend to be more nervous and edgy than llamas. Llamas tend to be more independent. If threatened, llamas will try to protect themselves. Llamas can also serve as guards for livestock, including alpacas.
On the other hand, alpacas are more herd-like than llamas. It is the reason why alpacas are successfully bred for their fleeces or hairs. You can also domestically train them just like cats and dogs. Alpacas can easily get the drift if you want them to go outside.
6. Llamas and Alpacas Spit When They Are Upset
Both alpacas and llamas spit. But unlike camels that spit when annoyed, alpacas and llamas only do it when they are very upset. Llamas tend to do it more often than alpacas, too.
7. Bred for Different Purposes
The purpose of breeding alpacas is different than that of llamas. Alpacas are primarily bred for their hairs. Llamas are mainly bred for their utility purpose and their meat. Both have fur, but the fur of alpacas are of higher quality than llamas.
The fleeces taken from alpacas are of very high quality. They are luxury fibers used in making expensive coats and garments. The hair color of a specific breed of alpaca is uniform, so if that color is in high demand, breeders have no problem in producing the exact product.
We’ve answered ‘Can you ride an alpaca’; next, let’s look at the different animals that you can ride on.
What Are the Animals That You Can Ride On?
Apart from horses, there are many animals that you can ride on. However, some of them are much better for riding than others. Here is a list of animals that humans can ride.
Now, ostriches are much more amenable to giving humans a ride. Some people have done it. So, if you are that adventurous, you can do it, too. If you want to try this, South Africa has several places where they offer this kind of adventure. However, I think it is still best for only children to ride an ostrich to avoid hurting it.
You can witness routine bull rides in Texas rodeos. But this is not an activity for the novice. You can get hurt if you don’t know how to ride a bull.
3. Water Buffalos
The water buffalo or carabao is significantly much tamer than bulls. Many farmers in Southeast Asia use them as beasts of burden. They can carry one or two people on their big and wide backs and pull a cart full of cargo at the same time. These animals also rarely complain. That’s why some abuse them.
Riding camels is traditional in the Middle East for centuries. Camels can transport you several hundred miles without taking a drop of water. Thrill-seekers even use them for racing. If ever you are going to some desert land, a camel might be waiting there for you to give you a lift.
Zebras look like horses, only with stripes. But they are wild. Perhaps you are wondering if you can ride them. Yes, you can technically ride them because they have all the parts that make horses good rides. However, these animals are very temperamental. They tend to be sassy and unpredictable. So, you really have to take lessons on zebra riding before attempting to ride one.
Those who have toured Thailand know that humans can ride elephants. One of the tourist attractions of Thailand is riding elephants. Elephants have been used since the time of Hannibal to transport people from place to place. They are still giving the same service to tourists in Thailand.
Giraffes are pretty docile animals. You can also ride them better than zebras. While they can run fast, they are mostly slow-movers. Some places in South Africa also offer giraffe-riding experiences.
You most probably have seen people riding dolphins if you’ve ever been to SeaWorld or any ocean-themed park. Perhaps you’ve also experienced riding them. These aquatic wonders are very amenable to humans riding on their backs.
If you are seeking for an exciting ride, why don’t you look at a very big tortoise? They have very large backs that can accommodate your butt for an exotic slow ride. Are there any entertainment joints that offer tortoise rides? There’s one at the Mount Kenya Wildlife Conservancy. A giant tortoise named ‘Speedy’ is waiting there to give you a ride.
Conclusion – Can You Ride Alpacas?
So, to recap everything, can you ride an alpaca? If you are a full-grown adult, the answer is no. You shouldn’t even attempt to sit on the back of an alpaca. The weight of an average alpaca is just about 150 lbs.
Moreover, its body is not as heavily built as the bigger llamas, which have weights ranging from 275 to 500 lbs. So, can you ride an alpaca? Riding an alpaca is considered as animal abuse by reputable alpaca breeders.