As promised, we are doing an informational series on alpacas. To start us off, we are going to break down just what an alpaca is.
Alpacas are a domesticated species of South American camelids. Natives of the level heights of the Andes of Ecuador, southern Peru, northern Bolivia, and northern Chile. Alpacas are considerably smaller than llamas, and unlike llamas, alpacas are not used as beasts of burden but are valued only for their fiber.
There are two types of alpacas, classified according to their fiber type
- Huacaya (‘wah-KI-yah’) — dense, crimped, wooly, water-resistant fleece. About 90% of all alpacas in the North America are “teddy-bear” huacayas.
- Suri (‘SUR-ree’) — very fine and lustrous fiber which grows parallel to the body in long, separate locks. Only 10% of the alpaca population in the US are suris.
Their fleece (or fiber) comes in 52 natural colors as classified in Peru, 12 as classified in Australia and 16 as classified in the US. Alpaca fiber is classified as a specialty fiber. It is 5 times warmer than sheep’s wool and more luxurious than cashmere. Strong and resilient, it has more thermal capacity than almost any other animal fiber. Alpaca fiber does not itch as wool often can because it does not contain lanolin and has a smooth cell structure
Each animal has its own personality, but in general alpacas are gentle and curious. They are herd animals and prefer the companionship of other alpacas; often becoming stressed if they are separated from their friends. Although they prefer their own kind, alpacas and children seem to have an affinity for one another. Alpacas seem to exhibit a special trust and curiosity for children and are normally quite submissive even to small children .
- Alpacas can be expected to live approximately 15-25 years.
- They stand on average 36 inches at the withers
- Average weight for an adult alpaca is 100-175 pounds
- Average gestation is 335 days, with a normal baby(cria) weighing 15-17 lbs. The cria can often stand and nurse within 60 minutes of being born.
There is so much more to an alpaca, but these are just some of the basics. Stay tuned and we will try to fill in more of the blanks about the elusive alpaca.
Questions or comments about today’s post? Leave them below and we will be happy to respond! Look for our next post, Alpaca 101!