Guanacos live in many habitats, including the Andes Mountains.
Guanacos live in many habitats, including the Andes Mountains.
Photograph by Davthy, Dreamstime


Picture a camel. Now take away a hump (or two). Finally, shrink it down in size and place it in South America, living as far south as Tierra del Fuego. What do you end up with? A guanaco.

Guanacos are related to camels, as are vicunas, llamas, and alpacas. But they live in South America, while camels are found in Africa and Asia. Guanacos and vicunas are wild animals, but llamas and alpacas have been domesticated, like cats and dogs, and were probably bred from guanacos. They're slender animals with pale brown backs, white undersides, short tails, large heads, very long necks, and big, pointed ears.

They live in groups of up to ten females, their young, and a dominant male adult. Unattached bachelor males form herds of their own—these can include as many as 50 or more animals. When a female guanaco gives birth, her newborn, known as a chulengo, is able to walk immediately. Chulengos can keep up with the herd right away.

Guanacos live on land high in the Andes mountains—up to 13,000 feet (3,962 meters) above sea level—as well as on the lower plateaus, plains, and coastlines of Peru, Chile, and Argentina.

Guanacos were once over hunted for their thick, warm wool. Now they thrive in areas protected by law.