What is it about alpacas that’s so captivating? OK, they’re adorable with their sweet big eyes and plush wooly coats. But they’re more than just a pretty face. Presenting some interesting facts about the amazing alpaca.
What is an alpaca?
Alpacas are members of the camelid family, which includes the camels of North Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. The other members of the camelid family—alpacas, llamas, guanacos, and vicunas—are all from South America.
People often confuse alpacas with llamas. Llamas are much bigger than alpacas (250-450 lbs. vs 100-200 lbs.) and are raised as guarding or pack animals, while alpacas are prized for their fleece.
There are two types of alpacas, the huacaya and the suri. The more common huacaya is what most people envision when they think of alpacas…a dense, wooly coat and that teddy bear face. Suris have long, silky fleece that hangs from their bodies in locks.
What are alpacas like?
Alpacas are as sweet as they look. They have a strong herding instinct and need the company of other alpacas to thrive. Unlike other camelids that have a reputation for being a bit stubborn and naughty, alpacas are pleasant and gentle. They don’t bite or butt. Like all camelids, they do spit, but mostly at each other when they squabble over food or mates; spitting at humans is uncommon.
Alpacas are a prey animal in the wild, so they are a bit timid and nervous if they feel threatened. They don’t like being approached from behind, and if you reach your hand out to pat that blob of fluff on their heads, they tend to pull back and expertly avoid your touch…especially if they don’t know you. They are more comfortable with familiar humans.
They are very clean and quiet animals. Similar to rabbits, their poop is small and a herd of alpacas will all go in a small communal dung pile. Alpacas generally only make sounds when stressed, either a low humming if they’re nervous or an alarm call if they’re mad or scared.
Why is alpaca fleece so special?
One alpaca can produce 7-10 lbs. of fiber per year. Alpaca fiber is very soft and luxurious like cashmere. It’s considered to be superior to sheep wool, being warmer, lighter, stronger, and very water resistant. It also has a silky, lustrous quality and comes in a wide variety of natural colors…22 official colors with many subtle shading differences.
The sale of fiber from a herd of alpacas can easily pay for their maintenance. Alpaca fiber sells for as much as $5 an ounce. The fleece from just one quality alpaca can bring $450 for each shearing.
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