Alpacas are fascinating animals that are often confused with llamas due to their similarity in appearance. However, alpacas are smaller than llamas, and they have short faces with spear-shaped ears. Llamas also eat more and require more space than their cousins. When it comes to behavior, they’re particularly famed for sharing one – spitting. But how true is this?
Not all alpacas spit, but they are all capable of doing so. Spitting is used as a defense mechanism and is quite an effective deterrent. The spit may contain saliva and a bit of hair, although it’s not uncommon for alpacas to bring up acidic stomach contents and project it onto their targets. Spitting is mostly aimed at other alpacas, but an alpaca will occasionally spit at humans if they feel intimidated or stressed. How much they spit depends on the alpaca and how threatened they feel.
Why Do Alpacas Spit at Humans?
Alpacas rarely spit on humans, so you don’t have to worry about getting spat on by one. You’re more likely to get spat on by accident, especially if you get caught in the crossfire of alpacas spitting at each other. That said, you need to be careful when you’re around alpacas to make sure that you’re not unintentionally causing them stress or anxiety, which increases the likelihood of them spitting on you.
Why Do Alpacas Spit at Each Other?
Alpacas spit at each other for several reasons. A female alpaca spits to show disinterest in a male alpaca. This typically occurs when the female thinks that she’s already impregnated and doesn’t want to mate. Alpaca breeders commonly use a “spit test” to assess pregnancy as it is very accurate and reliable.
Both male and female alpacas will spit to keep others away from their food, or anything else they feel the need to protect. They’ll also spit if they feel annoyed or threatened. Spitting is a sign of aggression or dominance that is often used as a pecking order mechanism with other members of the herd. Most alpacas give a slight warning before they spit by blowing air out and raising their heads, which gives their ears a “pinned” appearance.
Can Alpaca Spit Hurt You?
Alpaca spit does not hurt, but it’s unpleasant. “Spit” is somewhat euphemistic; occasionally, the projectile comprises only air and a little saliva, although alpacas often bring up acidic stomach contents (generally a green grassy mix) and spit it on their targets.
Alpacas have three compartments in their stomach where the acid gastric juice is held. They will regurgitate liquid from one compartment (the area that contains the not-so-vile gastric juice) and use that first before they resort to using the gastric juice from the other compartments which tends to have a very strong and repulsive taste compared to the first one.
The alpaca typically chews its food multiple times and often vomits it back up when doing so. You may have seen them doing this thanks to a lump in their throat that is visible when they chew. Because of this unique chewing process, their spit does not contain huge chunks of food but is usually completely liquefied. As a result, if an alpaca spit on you, it won’t do you any harm, but it might be an unpleasant experience.
How Bad is Alpaca Spit?
Alpaca spit has an unpleasant odor. However, the strength of the smell varies depending on the animal itself. Another factor that determines how pungent the spit will be is the last meal they ate, which is usually some variation of grain or grass. The spit usually has a greenish tint to it.
While it’s not dangerous to get spit on, alpaca spit can have potentially adverse effects if not removed quickly. This is because the spit is mainly made up of vomit which contains gastric juice that could have bacteria in it. If the alpaca is unhealthy, that spit could also contain parasites and diseases which could potentially make you or the animal it spits on get sick.
How Far Can Alpacas Spit?
An alpaca spit can reach a distance of up to ten feet.
When Do Alpacas Spit?
Alpacas spit when they’re stressed or anxious. They will usually give a few warnings before they spit. If you see an alpaca pulling its ears back while staring intently at you, it’s best to back away quickly. You might also hear them make snorting noises while preparing to spit. Some might also puff air at you while stretching their neck up as a strong warning to get out of their way.
Other signs of stress which can trigger spitting include drooling, stomping their feet, rapid breathing, and humming. If you pick up on these indications, make sure you’re at least 10 feet away from the alpaca.
Do All Alpacas Spit?
Not all alpacas spit, but all are capable of doing so. Spitting is usually a last resort defense mechanism for alpacas as it leaves an unpleasant taste in their mouth. In fact, after alpacas spit, they will sometimes stand with their mouths hanging open as a way to air it out. Some even go as far as trying to find food to eat to help get rid of the taste from their mouth.
Do Baby Alpacas Spit?
Baby alpacas can spit, but they can be easily trained to minimize the behavior and not to do it to their caregivers and other people.
Do Alpacas Spit More Than Llamas?
Alpacas don’t spit often, and neither do llamas. Both animals spit only when they feel truly threatened. That said, alpacas are friendlier and much more docile than llamas, so they will rarely spit at humans unprovoked.
How to Stop Alpacas Spitting?
To discourage alpacas from spitting, consider the following tips:
- Avoid eye contact
Some alpacas perceive direct eye contact as a threat, so you may want to avoid it so that you don’t stress them out or make them feel anxious.
- Remain calm
Always remain calm and project this sense of tranquility to an alpaca. Alpacas are smart animals that feed off your vibe and mood, so make sure you don’t get this altered while interacting with them.
- Watch and listen
Take the time to learn an alpaca’s body language and verbal cues. By watching and listening, you’ll quickly learn to identify stress and anxiety.