“The Wonderful World of Alpacas”
Alpacas have so much to offer us. We don’t have to hurt them to get what we want from them. They are sweet, gentle beings that are soft on the environment and easy to handle. Their fiber is every bit as nice as cashmere, being super soft and fuzzy, yet durable and very warm. To learn more about their fiber, click here.
A little History:
Archaeologists have discovered a great deal of alpaca fiber goods from graves and religious sites predating the Inca Empire in South America… a true testament to the durability of alpaca fiber.
A cherished treasure of the ancient Incan civilization, Alpacas are found in the high Altiplano region of the Andes where Chile, Peru and Bolivia meet.
Alpacas are a member of the camelid family and are close relatives to camels, llamas, vicunas, and guanacos. There are two types of alpacas: the Huacaya (wa-kai-a) which is the most common type of Alpaca with a dense and highly crimped fleece that stands straight off of the body much like a sheep and the Suri (sur-ry) which has a longer staple length and has fiber which is straighter with less crimp and is extremely soft and lustrous.
The weight range for alpacas is between 140 and 220 lb. with the average male being around 180 lb. with head height around 5 feet.
Like other ruminants, they chew their cud which is regurgitated or partially digested food.
Yes, alpacas do spit as do all camelids when threatened or when their personal space is invaded by other alpacas. Occasionally they will spit on people but most of the time it is just a case of a human being in the path of two alpacas having a rucus conversation.
The life span in South America is around 18 years but with a better diet in the US they are typically exceeding 20 years.
Alpacas have no teeth on top, instead they have a dental pad and do not bite as a form of aggession.
They have soft padded, earth-friendly feet, a non-aggressive personality and can be easily transported. .
Alpacas were first imported to the United States in 1984. The number of alpacas in the United States is still very small compared to their native home in the Andes.
weanling – A weaned alpaca, younger than 1 year.
Yearling – An alpaca between 1 and 2 years old.
Sire or herdsire – An alpacas father, or a male alpaca with the genetic characteristics desirable for breeding.
Suri – (sur-ry) A type of alpaca with tightly-wound fiber that looks like dreadlocks.
Tui Fleece – The first fleece shorn from an alpaca, always the finest fleece
bred female – A pregnant alpaca.
Cria – A baby alpaca, usually younger than 5 months.
Dam – An alpacas mother.
Fiber – The fleece of an alpaca.
Huacaya – (wa-kai-a) A type of alpaca with fine fiber and a woolly appearance.
Fiber quality male – A male alpaca whose genetic characteristics are not worthy of breeding.
To Learn more about alpacas, visit our pages on Alpaca Fiber, Breeding, Husbandry, Showing and Shearing Alpacas.