Why Do Alpacas Spit?

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Spitting is a popular topic when it comes to alpacas. During the month of March we will feature a new post on Spitting each Saturday. Hope you enjoy Spittin’ Saturdays.

One of the first questions people ask about alpacas is “Do they spit?”

Yes, they can spit. Some alpacas are bigger spitters than others. Some have more attitude than others.  Most of the time alpacas are sweet and curious -  though most of them like to enjoy humans at arm’s length rather than snuggle with them.

Occasionally when humans or other alpacas get a little too close for comfort, alpacas spit.  Spitting is their way of saying, “NO, I don’t like that. Stop what you are doing!” They can’t talk, so this is their, ahem, nonverbal way to voice their displeasure over something. Alpacas are totally defenseless. All they’ve got is their spit.

In my experience spitting usually occurs when the girls are arguing over food (remember they are usually pregnant), or when the boys are arguing over the girls. I am most often spit on when I happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, i.e. walking through a group of them during a barnyard squabble. Alpacas are passive, not mean-spirited beasts. But when they are mad, their spit is their only weapon.

There are different degrees of spitting. On one end of the spectrum is a mild *phew*. This one is mostly air and is used to signal irritation. Almost like a sneeze. On the other end of the spectrum is the very angry spit. This one involves green nasty stuff from the depths of the alpaca’s rumen. It is usually reserved for a fierce disagreement with a herdmate or the veterinarian. And it does smell. Bad.

But alpaca spit is not really that big of a deal for those of us who are addicted to love them. Spit can usually be avoided by understanding the alpaca’s nature and using mild handling techniques.

Next Spittin’ Saturday – Spitting from the Alpaca’s Perspective or “10 Reasons Spit Happens!!!

More Spittin’ Saturdays:

No Spit

Alpaca Spit Testing

Comments

  1. I can’t believe I just read an entire blog post about alpaca’s spitting! Actually, it was very informative. Alpacas are certainly a distinct animal. I learned while touring an alpaca farm at St Mary of the Woods that their hooves don’t destroy the turf and they don’t eat down to the root of the grass. I hope my memory servers me right.

  2. Thanks for explaining the spitting thing Katy. I thought the alpacas did it ALL the time, and that it must be especially vile every time. (Why else would people be constantly mentioning spitting when talking about alpacas and not their cute faces?)

    TStones last blog post..Lovely Cable Knit

  3. Katy- do yours do what mine do.. walk around mouth-breathing because they’ve just grossed themselves out by what they spit? It’s like, “man, that was awful, and it tastes bad…huff, huff.” They look more miserable than the victim, who has a green gob of spit on the back of his head, like paintball!

  4. Yes, it’s so funny. And people think there’s something really wrong. I just tell them they just got through spitting. It cracks me up.

  5. Alpaca? Alpaca? Are you kidding?

    Dan Mihaliaks last blog post..How Are Paintballs Made

  6. Thumbs up for Spittin’ Saturdays.

    Informative post. “All they’ve got is their spit,” as you say — no words or hand signals.

    I’ve never been spit on by an alpaca in Peru, but I have been on the receiving end of llamas’ spit (yuck!) and that of one very angry vicuna in Arequipa. He was in a pen all by himself in a zoological park and he had decided that he hated all human beings. Poor guy. :)

  7. I’ve never been spit on by my alpacas either, except one mild *phew* from a protective dam when I was handling her cria. I have also found that when I see an alpaca showing signs of wanting to spit in my direction, I hold my hand up like a stop sign, and they always back down.
    .-= Alpacadero´s last blog ..Save The Alpacas: Cause Célèbre =-.

  8. Val McCann says:

    I have two quirky Alpacas that I love to bits. The dominant Alpaca, the female, has at times a spitting tendency toward her mate when it comes to me giving them treats. After the spit she hardly has any side effects but the male who has not spat is left with almost lock jaw!He dribbles and he cannot eat. She goes on merrily grazing!This is most unfair but quite humourous. Can any one explain this phenomenon?

  9. Val,
    I believe it depends on how vehemently they spit as to whether or not they get the droopy green mouth and can’t eat. If they bring up a lot from deep in their stomach, they will tend to have the lockjaw as you describe it, for a few minutes. Alpacas also have the ability to “superficially” spit where they are just spitting, but not spitting anything up. They can spit air or food that is in their mouth (and not already digested in their gut) and not have it affect them. Hope that helps.

    Katy

  10. Guy Watkin says:

    Wow thank you for this info on spitting our three boys do it when feeding but we have decided to feed seperatly now and its much more friendly the bit about the lockjaw really helps we were a little worried about this as these are our first alpaca’s.

  11. You are welcome, Guy. So glad that was helpful. That locked jaw is creepy that first time you see it, isn’t it? :)

  12. i was watching dirty jobs on discovery and they went to an alpaca farm, and commented on the spitting..so i googled it. i have no experience with alpacas and now i know to stay at least a loogies length away. the nasty green stuff doesnt sound too apealing. but your blog was interesting and thanks for puttin it out there.

  13. Can alpaca spit make you sick? I brought my daughter to the local zoo and while feeding an alpaca it spit all over her face. It got in her mouth & eyes. Are their any diseases they carry I should worry about?

  14. Hi Hilda, not to worry. It’s just chewed up grass and stomach acid – yucky and stinky, but basically harmless.

  15. This is great information ! Helped me complete what I had to. Thanks :D xx

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