All along the Andean trails, alpacas (Vicugna pacos) and llamas (Lama glama) are usually seen following their shepherds, gracefully unaffected by the cold, rain and snowstorms. You can also see vicuñas (Vicugnavicugna) and guanacos (Lama guanicoe), species that roam wild through the highlands.These unique South American camelids have adapted to living in the Andes at heights of over 4,000 metres (13,123 feet) above sea level.
Llamas are the biggest and are physically strong. They weigh between 108 and 155 kg (239 - 341 pounds) and 1.5 to 2 metres (5 to 6.5 feet) tall. There are two varieties: the coarse-haired "K'ara" llama (short haired, with little hair on its body and no hair on its face, neck and legs), and the "lanuda" or "chaku" llama (with more hair on its body and a fleece made of finer, longer hair).
The alpaca, whose wool is generally used to make coats, is distinguished from other South American camelids by its smaller size, weighing around 60 kg (132 pounds). There are two varieties: the Huarcaya (with lots of hair covering its body, legs and neck, and with short hair on its feet and face), and the Suri (whose hair is straighter, silkier and longer, growing up to 20 cm (8 inches) long).
Vicuñas have longer necks but are smaller, weighing up to 36 kg (79 pounds) and with an average height of 1.5 metres (5 feet). Their wool is the finest in the world, with a thickness of 12.5 microns and high commercial value. Vicuñas are characterised by the brown cinnamon colour of the wool on their backs and flanks, while the chest, belly and inside legs are white. The mammal is representative of Peru's rich animal heritage and is depicted on the national coat of arms.
The guanaco is a wild South American camelid. It has an average height of between 1.2 and 1.5 metres (4 to 5 feet) and weighs between 120 and 150 kg (265 and 330 pounds). Their hair colour varies between reddish brown and brown, while their chest, belly, inside legs and feet are white. They easily adapt to different ecological conditions. The guanaco lives on the coast or at heights of over 5,000 metres (16,400 feet) above sea level.
Andean inhabitatns used alpacas and llamas as a means of transport, food and warm clothing. For thousands of years, man and camelids have been partners in a process of cultural adaptation. Cave paintings, such as those in Toquepala, depict hunting scenes in which camelids appear. Furthermore, they have played an important part in ceremonies and rituals or as tomb companions for the final journey of pre-Inca and Inca lords.