20 Interesting Alpaca Facts

20 Interesting Alpaca Facts

We get so many questions from our customers regarding alpacas, we thought it would be fun to outline a few simple, interesting facts regarding alpacas.   We hope you enjoy!

.

  1. Alpacas are part of a family group of animals called camelids and as the name suggests, are closely related to camels as well as llamas.  The original ancestor of the camelid family evolved in North America.  Some populations of this ancestor migrated to Asia, Europe and Africa over the Bering land bridge when it was exposed during an ice age.  This population group evolved into present day camels.  Other populations of that ancestor migrated to South America where vicuñas (wild brother to the alpacas) and guanacos (wild brother to the llama) eventually evolved.   In North America, the remaining populations of this ancestral stock died out; which left us without camelids
  2. Alpacas were domesticated from wild vicuñas while llamas were domesticated from wild guanacos.
  3. Alpacas are one of the few animals alive today that live alongside the wild animal they evolved from, vicuñas.
  4. The ancient people of South America bred herds of alpacas with tremendous skill; creating herds with phenomenal fiber fineness and animal quality.  Unfortunately, in their quest for gold, Spanish conquistadors decimated the these advanced herds of alpacas the ancient peoples worked so hard to create.
  5. Modern breeders have only recently been able to match the fiber fineness achieved in pre-Columbian societies.  This was proven by Dr. Jane Wheeler through scientific study of alpaca mummies.
  6. There are two types of alpacas: Huacayas and Suris.  Huacayas have crimped fiber that stands perpendicular to their skin so they look fluffy, like a teddy bear.  Suris have long bundles of locks that hang straight down from their skin and they usually have a part along their back.
  7. Only about 10% of the world population of alpacas are Suris,
  8. Alpacas are not true ruminants, yet they have three stomachs for wringing the most nutrition possible from their food.  In fact, they are able to absorb 50% more nutrients than sheep.
  9. Alpacas have soft, padded feet like a dog that are easy on pasture land and do not contribute to erosion like the hooves of some other fiber livestock.
  10. Alpacas do not have upper front teeth, but rather clip grass with lower front teeth against an upper dental palate and chew with a full set of rear molars.
  11. Alpaca teeth continually grow and in their native homelands; they are worn down by the silica in the soil.  In other regions, their teeth must be trimmed.
  12. Alpacas produce no lanolin in their fiber, which means their fiber is much easier to clean and prepare for spinning and is the predominant reason their fiber is hypoallergenic.
  13. Alpacas must never by kept alone–they are herd animals and are happy and comfortable among others of their kind.
  14. Alpaca fiber comes in about 22 natural shades, according to who you ask.  Some countries count more or less.
  15. Alpacas, both Suris and Huacayas, are usually shorn once a year to ensure their health and comfort in hot weather months.
  16. Alpaca fiber is one of the most incredible natural fibers known.  It is soft, durable, hypo-allergenic, inflammable, insulative and beautiful.
  17. When a female alpaca is pregnant she may vehemently spit at a male who has designs on mating with her.  This is the easiest test to determining if a female is expecting since their pregnancy shows very little until the very end of gestation.
  18. Alpaca manure is some of the best manure around for gardening and is considered nature’s best time-release pellet fertilizer.
  19. Most alpacas poop in a communal manure pile, making collecting the fertilizer easy.  Open females tend to want to use several areas, hoping a male will pick up on her scent.
  20. Because alpacas live at high altitude, they are able to process oxygen more efficiently than other animals.  In fact, scientist are currently studying their elliptically shaped blood cells.