All About Alpacas
History of Alpacas
Domesticated for more than 5,000 years, alpacas are native to the Andes Mountains of Peru, Bolivia and Chile. They were first imported to the United States in 1984. Alpacas are related to llamas, which sometimes are used to protect their smaller, more docile cousins.

Alpacas are found in many countries.  Their native South America is home to about 99 percent of the current alpaca population of three million. Their popularity in the states has increased dramatically and today there are alpaca ranches all across the country.

Description of an Alpaca
There are two types of Alpacas

Pronounced: wha KI yah
The coat of the huacaya is short, dense, crimpy and woolly.

Pronounced: SER ree
Suri fleece is long and silky
and looks like dreadlocks!

Mature or adult alpacas generally range about 36" tall at the withers. Their weight can range from 100 pounds to 200 pounds. They are quite gentle and easily handled. Lifespan is about twenty years. Gestation period is 11.5 months.

Alpacas only have teeth on their lower jaw and therefore are unable to bite humans or their food. Neither do they have horns, hooves, or claws. Their feet are similar to that of a dog: soft pads. These delightful creatures are clean, quiet, intelligent, and disease resistant.

Alpaca Care
Alpaca enclosures are most usually a hog-wire type fencing. One acre is adequate for five to ten alpacas. Alpacas are most often guarded by big, shaggy, white Great Pyrenees dogs.

These animals eat grasses and chew a cud. Their diet is closely monitored and an array of foods are given including a special hay, nutritional pellets, and some others.

Alpaca Fiber
The soft-as-cashmere-like fleece of the Alpaca was once only used for garments of Incan royalty. Today it is available to anyone from the large industrial weavers, to the knitter at home. It's used in an array of hats, sweaters, scarves, and many others.

Alpacas fiber is soft and lighter, warmer, and stronger than other fibers, including wool. The fiber comes in more colors than that of any other fiber-producing animal -- twenty-two basic colors!

Each spring the alpacas are clipped -- no injury is incurred to the animal. An adult produces from six to twelve pounds of fiber.

The largest alpaca textile industry today is in Arequipa, Peru. Products are sold mainly in Japan and Europe. In the United States, many breeders have also begun sales of the fleece either in its original state, or in skeins ready for knitting or crocheting. Spun into yarn, it sells for $2 to $10 an ounce.

SOURCE: Alpaca Owners and Breeders Association