10 Interesting Facts About Alpaca

10 Interesting Facts About Alpaca

Did you know that:

1. There are no wild alpacas. Alpacas are domesticated versions of vicuñas, South American ruminants that live high in the Andes. These adorable animals are related to camels.

2. Alpacas are the smallest members of the camel family. The average height at the shoulder is 3 feet (91.4 centimeters). They are 4 to 7 feet (120 to 225 cm) long and weigh 121 to 143 lbs. (55 to 65 kilograms).

By comparison, the llama stands almost 4 feet (1.2 m) at the shoulder and weighs from 286 to 341 lbs. (130 to 155 kg). Camels grow to 6.5 feet (2 m) and weigh from 880 to 1,325 lbs. (400 to 600 kg).

3. Alpacas are ancient! They were domesticated by the Incas 6000 years ago.

4. Alpaca is a specialty fiber that has been described as stronger than mohair, finer than cashmere, smoother than silk, softer than cotton, warmer than goose down and better-breathing than thermal knits.

5. Alpaca fiber is much like sheep’s wool, but warmer and not itchy. Alpaca fiber is flame-resistant. It comes in 22 colors and hundreds of shades from white to light rose gray to dark fawn. Alpaca fur is very soft and does not retain water. It is also very durable. 

6. Alpacas are very social creatures. They are gentle and curious and with training can become great pets.

7. Alpacas are very adaptable and have been exported all over the world, including the United States, New Zealand, Australia and the Netherlands, so their "habitat" is often farmland. Still, 99 percent of the world population of alpacas is found in South America

8. Alpacas come in two types: Suri and the Huacaya. About 90 percent of all alpacas in the North America are huacayas. The main difference between the breeds is the length and fineness of the wool-like fiber.

9. Alpacas breed once a year. The female alpaca has a gestation period of 242 to 345 days and gives birth to just one baby alpaca. The baby alpaca, called a cria, weighs 18 to 20 lbs. (8 to 9 kg) when it is born. The cria is weaned at 6 to 8 months, and females are ready to reproduce at 12 to 15 months. Males take a bit longer to mature and are ready to mate at 30 to 36 months. Alpacas live up to 20 years.

10. Alpacas hum when they are curious, content, worried, bored, fearful, distressed or cautious. Alpacas spit when they are distressed or feel threatened.