Alpacas don’t have a lot of natural defenses, they can’t reach up and swat you away, (they can kick, but their feet are soft so they don’t do any damage) they mostly just run away if they are truly threatened, but in the everyday life of an alpaca herd, there are disputes, disagreements and arguments that need to be settled and spitting is one of the main ways for resolving issues.
After only a very short time under these circumstances, an alpaca will resort to any defense mechanism at his disposal. His only natural defenses are to run away, or to spit. Mistreat cats and they will scratch you, mistreat alpacas and they will spit at you. Alpacas basically have 3 different types of spits. The “air” spit, which is just what it sounds like & can be used to say, “I am really annoyed, get out of my face” or “that is my food, leave it alone”, or, and this is one of my favorites, Treat them reasonably.
Respect their personal space. Study and learn their individual signals and body languages. These are gentle and curious creatures. These seem to correspond to the level of agitation being experienced by the alpaca that decides to deliver. One reason for spitting is to show dominance in establishing a pecking order between herd members. It is a very common occurrence at feeding stations so be careful not to put yourself in a position to catch some blow-by or be caught in a crossfire. Another common instance where spitting is seen is in mating. The pregnant female uses this as a method to indicate to any approaching male that she is not receptive. She will spit him off if he makes any type of attempts at breeding with her. Many breeders use this behavior as a form of pregnancy test. While it is not as definitive or as accurate as some other methods, it is a fairly reliable test.
While it takes special circumstances for an alpaca to spit at a human, it is a normal and common behavior for them to spit at each other. There seem to be three different intensities of spitting that they employ in their daily interactions with one another.
1. Mostly air and a little bit of moisture.
2. Mostly moisture and a little bit of air.
3. A big, green glob of half digested goo.
The second type of spit is the cud spit.
Alpacas, like cows, are ruminants, and are cud chewers. What is cud, you may ask? Without
going in to a great deal of detail, it is partly undigested food that alpacas regurgitate to chew on
further before swallowing it again to be digested. Yuck! But alpacas don’t seem to mind and
spend all day chewing on their cud
The cud spit is more of a warning shot across the bow, if you will, and consists of whatever cud
might be in the mouth at the time. I will walk around during the day and see alpacas with clumps
of cud stuck to their heads, faces, necks, etc which tells me that they got sideways of one of their
buddies. I see this mostly on the crias (baby alpacas) and it really is quite comical.
Finally, there is the truly disgusting, smelly, nasty, spit that leaves the spitter with his mouth
hanging open and green goo running out of his mouth. This spit is reserved for extreme
circumstances when the alpaca is truly mad and the first 2 spits just won’t cut it. For the
purposes of this post, we will call it The Green Goo Spit (I like to use very concise technical