Alpaca History


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The History of Alpacas

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Where do Alpacas Come from?


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All you need to know about Alpacas!

Alpaca History

Alpacas are native to the Andean regions of Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador and parts of Chile and Argentina. They were first domesticated in Peru about 5,000 years ago and numbered in the tens of millions by the time of the Spanish conquest. Alpacas were first imported into the United States in 1984.

There are over 3 million alpacas found in the world today. Alpacas mostly inhabit the high plains regions of Chile, Bolivia and Peru. There are two breeds of alpacas: huacaya and suri. Ninety percent of the world alpaca population is huacaya.

Scientific Origin of Alpacas

Alpacas are a South American member of the camel family, Camelidae (order Artiodactyla), that is closely related to the llama, guanaco, and vicuña, which are known collectively as lamoids.

Alpaca Characteristics

Like other camelids, alpacas are slender bodied animals with a long neck and legs, a short tail, a small head and large, pointed ears. They are readily distinguished from llamas by their smaller size.

They also differ from llamas in having a rounded, rather than squarish body and in their habit of pressing their tail close to the body rather than holding it erect as does the llama. Alpacas stand approximately 35 inches high at the shoulder with a body length of 4.2-5.0 feet and weigh 121-143 pounds. Their life span is 15-20 years.

Alpaca Care

Alpacas are strictly grazers. They are extremely hardy and adaptable to most climates, altitudes and conditions. Six to eight alpacas require only one acre of pasture; making them ideal for small acreage farms. Their softly padded feet are extremely easy on pasture.

Alpacas nibble on grasses and small plants in pasture but don't rip the plants out of the ground. This is because they have a hard upper palate instead of top teeth. They have one or two "community poop piles" making it much easier to gather and compost the manure, while keeping the animals cleaner and freer from parasites.

Alpaca Fibre

During the period of Incan civilization, the wearing of robes made of alpaca wool was reserved for the nobility and royalty. Today, the primary function of the alpaca continues to be fibre production. Alpaca wool is remarkably lightweight, strong, lustrous, high in insulation value, and resistant to rain and snow. Alpaca fibre, which has no lanolin, is very different from wool.

People who are allergic to wool can wear alpaca garments. Wool of the suri is fine and silky and grows long enough to touch the ground if the animal is not sheared. The wool of the huacaya is shorter and coarser by comparison. Hair growth in a two-year period is about 12 inches in the huacaya. Peru is the leading producer of the wool, with most of it being marketed in the city of Arequipa.

Alpaca Reproduction

Alpacas are induced ovulators and can be bred year round. The female reaches sexual maturity in 12-24 months. Their gestation period is approximately 11 and a half months. They have one young per birth and rarely two. Alpacas almost always give birth in the daylight hours. At birth, a baby alpaca (cria) weighs 12 - 20 pounds. The mother will usually be bred again 10-21 days after giving birth.