Domesticated in the Andes Mountains several thousand years ago by Incas, the alpaca has a slender body, a long neck and legs, a small head, a short tail, and large, pointed ears. Alpacas stand about 35 in. (90 cm) at the shoulder and weigh 120–145 lbs (54–65 kg). They are found in central and southern Peru and western Bolivia, on marshy ground at high altitudes. They eat grass and hay and can live up to 20 years old.
Alpacas a South American species in the camel family is the animal that undergoes the greatest temperature variations, ranging from -25 to 30 °C in a single day. To adapt to this, it has developed a natural fiber with exceptional thermoregulatory properties. Alpacas are prized for their thick fleece, which can grow up to 10 inches a year.
Fun Facts about the Alpaca
- Alpacas are related to camels, llamas, guanacos, and vicuna.
- Alpacas were domesticated for their fiber 1000 years before the Egyptians built the pyramids.
- Their coats may grow up to 10 inches a year. They are sheared every 12-18 months.
- Alpacas and llamas held a special place in ancient Andean societies. The alpaca, in particular, was seen as a gift from the Inca goddess Pachamama. Indigenous Andean peoples made clothing from alpaca fiber, fiber from the dung, meals from the meat and leather from the hides. Further, textiles were a central part of their social system. As a result, alpacas assumed religious significance and their forms appear in amulets and other religious objects.
Alpaca Owners & Breeders Association, Inc. (2006-2012). Alpacainfo. Retrieved from http://www.alpacainfo.com/MediaCenter/generalinfo.asp
Davis, L. K. (1995-2009). Alpaca.com: The world's premier alpacasource and marketplace. Retrieved from http://www.alpacanet.com/thealpaca.cfm