The short answer is yes. Alpacas can spit. But lucky for us, these cuddly little fellows rarely spit at people. In fact, the most common situation in which alpacas spit is when they’re locked in a dominance battle with another alpaca. “Spit” is also a relative term, and can mean anything from benign but slimy saliva to nasty, burning stomach acid (and, of course, what’s left of whatever they’ve been chowing down lately.)
Interested in the longer answer?
Alpaca Spit: What It Is And Why They Do It
Alpacas are not aggressive creatures – and when it comes to fight or flight, they usually pick the flight option. They don’t have sharp hooves, claws, or horns. Though alpacas can kick, it’s a love tap compared to horse or donkey kick that can shatter bones. So when it comes to self-defense, all they have to work with is projectile spitting (which has an effective range of up to ten feet). Whether they’re targeting a rival alpaca or a small predator, a bit of spit usually isn’t enough to seriously harm anyone. But taking an aggressive stance, standing up for yourself, and proving to be more trouble than you’re worth has been a solid bully-stopping strategy for centuries. If you can’t escape a fight, you may as well go down swinging.
But…They Only Fight If They Have To
As mentioned above, there are two kinds of spit, which we like to call “warning spit” and “acid spit”.
A “warning spit’ is exactly what it sounds like: the miffed alpaca will take an aggressive stance and spit air mixed with saliva in your general direction. The hope here is to be annoying enough to make their opponent back down without having to resort to “acid spit”. Alpacas really don’t like to acid spit – and for good reason.
Acid spit is basically just acid, saliva, air, and whatever food happens to be in the stomach at the time. Sound familiar? If you’ve ever thrown up, then it probably does. And while alpacas may be better at aiming their projectile vomiting than we are, it isn’t any more pleasant for them than it is for us. It quite literally leaves a bad taste in their mouth. So if they have any other alternative – whether it’s running to the other side of the pasture or spitting sticky saliva all over their attacker’s face – they’ll probably take that before going for the full acid spit. In fact, we’ve only had an alpaca spit on us once, and that situation checked all the “worst-case scenario” boxes.
- The alpaca was a rescue who had been abused before
- He was in an unfamiliar place (the vet’s clinic)
- He couldn’t escape (people were holding him down)
- He was facing extreme duress (he was being sedated before being castrated)
All things considered, we think we would have been spitting mad too if we were in that situation.
Ears laid back, eyes locked, ready to fire
Warning Signs Of Impending Spit
If you spend any amount of time with alpacas, or if you plan to sometimes in the near future, it is wise to know the warning signs of an aggravated alpaca. Here are some things you should look out for:
- Ears laid flat back
- Solid eye contact
- Raised chin
- Weird or gurgling throat noises
If you see an alpaca giving you the evil eye with a few of those other signs, you might want to quickly defuse the situation.
How To Defuse The Situation And Avoid A Faceful Of Alpaca Spit
If an alpaca is showing the warning signs outlined above, it’s probably because they feel threatened. Remember, they aren’t predators and they don’t want to fight. Spitting is an unpleasant last resort. So do whatever you can to make them feel less threatened.
- Break eye contact
- Move slowly
- Back away from the alpaca
- Look generally non-threatening
Now that you know when and why alpacas spit (and what to do to avoid it), you’ll be prepared to handle just about anything these little guys can dish out! Except maybe how outrageously cute they are…