Alpacas were a cherished treasure of the ancient Inca civilization and played a central role in the Inca culture that was located in the high mountains of South America. Alpacas have been domesticated for over 5,000 years, and their popularity has now become internationally recognized. There are approximately 3.5 million alpacas living in South America’s Andean highlands in Bolivia, Peru, and Chile; there are about 200,000 alpacas in the United States.
The more common Huacaya alpaca has fluffy, crimped fleece and is known for their cute “Teddy Bear look”
Alpacas are beautiful, gentle, intelligent, fleece-producing creatures. Enjoyed by spinners and weavers around the world, alpaca fiber comes in more natural colors than any other fiber. In the camelid family, related to the llama, alpacas are modified ruminants utilizing their food and water very efficiently. Alpacas are odor-free as they confine their dung piles to just a few areas.
There are two different breeds of alpacas: Huacaya and Suri. The more common Huacaya have full, fluffy, crimped fleeces and are known for their cute “Teddy Bear look.” The unique, rarer Suri alpaca has long, silky, lustrous locks which hang downward creating a draped, elegant appearance. Suri fiber is prized and commands higher prices in the world markets because of its luster and fine hand. Both Suri and Huacaya fiber are used throughout the world for the very warmest and finest quality garments. Alpaca fiber does not contain lanolin or any other oily body secretion, so it can usually be worn by persons allergic to sheep wool. Alpacas, when placed in a show ring, do not require grooming. Their fiber is simply picked clean.
Alpacas are friendly and pleasant, clean and fastidious. They are easily trained and are gentle around children. Alpacas are easy to care for, and require less food than other farm animals. One acre of land can sustain 5-10 alpacas. They stand about three feet tall and weigh on average between 130 and 150 pounds. They live for 15-20 years and can produce offspring once a year. And, alpacas produce a highly desirable fiber that is soft and light like cashmere yet warmer, more durable and more comfortable than other fibers.