2022/2023 Alpaca Owners Guide

WHAT IS AN ALPACA? Alpacas are members of the camelid family. The camels with which most people are familiar are the ones with humps: the dromedary of Northern Africa, the Middle East and Southern Asia, and the Bactrian camel of China and Tibet. However, there are four non-humped camelids that are indigenous to South America. Two of them, llamas and alpacas, have been domesticated for thousands of years, whereas the other two varieties, guanacos and vicuñas, continue to roam in wild herds today. People often confuse alpacas with llamas. While closely related, there are some major differences. Llamas are about twice the size of alpacas and are used primarily for packing, while alpacas are primarily raised for their fine fiber. The alpaca comes in two breed types: huacaya (pronounced wuh‑KAI‑ya) and suri (SUR‑ee). Huacayas, the more common type, account for about 85–90% of all alpacas. The two breed types vary primarily in terms of their fiber. Huacaya fleece is crimpy while suri fleece is silky and lustrous with pencil-locks. HISTORY OF THE ALPACA  The Ancient Days Fossil records indicate there was an alpaca-like animal that once lived in North America. Those ancient North American animals are extinct, so today the alpaca is found indigenously only in South America. The largest populations are in the countries of Peru, Bolivia, and Chile, with smaller numbers in Ecuador and Paraguay. The heaviest concentration of alpacas is near Lake Titicaca, on the border between Bolivia and Peru. The alpaca has been domesticated for a very long time, probably for thousands of years. Two native cultural groups, the Quechuas and Aymaras, are credited with first domesticating these animals. They consumed their meat, spun their fiber

i nto c l o t h i ng , and burned their manure for fuel. Although little is known about how the Quechuas and Aymaras cared for the alpacas in those ancient times, we do know from archeological

The alpaca comes in two breed types: huacaya (top), and suri.

ALPACA OWNERS GUIDE 2022/2023 | 13

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