Alpacas are native to South America and have been domesticated for approximately 6,000 years. In Incan times their fiber was reserved for royalty. Alpacas were first introduced to the United States in 1984.
What is an alpaca?
Alpacas are members of the camelid family. The camels that most people are familiar with are the ones with humps. However, there are four other camelids (without humps) that are indigenous to South America: two of them, llamas and alpacas, have been domesticated for thousands of years.
The alpaca comes in two breed-types: huacaya (pronounced wah‑KI‑ah) and suri (SOO‑ree). Huacayas, the more common type, account for about 90% of all alpacas, and have fluffy, crimpy fleece that gives the animals a teddy bear-like appearance. Suris, on the other hand, grow silky, lustrous fleece that drapes gracefully in beautiful pencil-locks. Generally, alpacas live around 15 to 20 years.
how are alpacas different llamas?
People often confuse alpacas with llamas. While closely related, llamas and alpacas are distinctly different animals. First, llamas are much larger, about twice the size of an alpaca, with an average weight of about 250 to 450 pounds, compared to an alpaca whose weight averages 100 to 200 pounds. Llamas are primarily used for packing or for guarding herds of sheep or alpacas, whereas alpacas are primarily raised for their soft and luxurious fleece.
are alpacas dangerous?
No — they are safe and pleasant to be around. They do not bite or butt and do not have sharp teeth, horns, hooves, or claws as other types of livestock do. They move gracefully and adroitly about the field and are therefore unlikely to run into or over anyone, even small children. Occasionally, an alpaca will reflexively kick with its hind legs, especially if touched from the rear, but the soft padded feet usually do little more than just "get your attention."