Where do alpacas come from?
Alpacas come from the Andes Mountain region of South America. This area goes through four countries; Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador and Chile. Most of the alpacas live in Peru though; over half of the population of all alpacas in the world live in Peru.
History of alpacas
Alpacas were domesticated by pre-Incan civilizations. In southern Peru there have been mummies of alpacas and llamas found. The alpaca was used in religious practices and rituals and the indigenous people still consider alpacas as a gift from Pachamama, a goddess also known as the earth mother.
One legend of the origin of the alpaca states they came to be in the world after a goddess fell in love with a man. The goddess’ father only allowed her to be with her lover if he cared for her herd of alpacas. On top of caring for the herd, he was to always carry a small animal for his entire life. As the goddess came into our world, the alpacas followed her. Everything was fine until the man set the small animal down, and the goddess fled back to her home. On her way back home, the man attempted to stop her and her herd from fleeing. While he was not able to stop her from returning, he was able to stop a few alpacas from returning. These alpacas who did not make it back are said to be seen today in the swampy lands in the Andes waiting for the end of the world, so they may return to their goddess.
The Incans valued the alpacas highly. Most of the alpaca population at the time of the conquistadors were living in the Incan cities and surrounding areas. When the Spaniards were conquering the Incans, the Incan people fled into the mountains. They brought as many of their alpacas as they could with them. The Spanish conquistadors were responsible for almost wiping out the alpaca in their conquests. Luckily the Incans were able to bring some with them as they fled. Originally alpacas lived at a lower elevation but were able to adapt to the higher elevations that the Incans fled to in the Andes.
Kinds of Alpacas
There are two breeds of alpacas; Huacaya and Suri. The Huacayas have fluffier fiber and Suris have longer shiner fiber that will become dreadlock like as it gets longer. Suris tend to be larger and have a more athletic build than the Huacayas.
Are llamas and alpacas related?
Yes, alpacas and llamas are both part of the camelid family. This means that they are also related to camels! Alpacas and llamas are cousins and are also related to the vicuña and guanaco who are also from the Andes Mountains. Vicuña and guanaco are the wild ancestors of alpacas and llamas. Scientists studied the DNA of all these animals and proved that alpacas descended from vicuña and llamas descended from guanaco. Vicuña and guanaco have been around Peru for 12,000 years. There are mummies that have been found of alpacas and llamas that date back 900-1000 years.
What are the differences between alpacas and llamas?
Alpacas and llamas are different animals even though they look similar and are from the same region. Llamas are much bigger than alpacas. Alpacas weigh 100-200 lbs. and 350-500 lbs. Alpacas were bred for their fiber and llamas for packing (carrying weight). Animals have fight or flight instincts. Alpacas are flight animals; they will run away from danger. Llamas are fight animals; they take on the danger. Because of this trait llamas are also used for protection in herds of other animals.
Llamas and alpacas also have different shaped ears. Alpaca ears stand straight. Llama ears are longer and curved forward. They are called banana ears.
Alpacas are pregnant for 11.5 months! We usually breed for a spring or fall birth so that the babies are born during mild weather.
Baby alpacas are called crias. They will start walking within 30 minutes of being born. They only have one baby at a time. Crias are usually between 15 and 19 pounds at birth.
How long do alpacas live?
Alpacas live on average for 15-20 years. The oldest alpaca on record lived to 27
What do alpacas eat?
Alpacas eat mostly grass and hay with a little bit of grain
Why own alpacas?
Alpaca is raised for their fiber. They are shorn once a year. Alpaca fiber is warmer than wool, softer than cashmere and is naturally shiny. It is considered hypoallergenic and contains no lanolin. Lanolin is what makes people itch from sheep’s wool. Alpaca fiber is also flame-resistant!
How does alpaca fiber become usable?
Alpaca fiber goes through many steps and can be used at several step or goes onto further steps. First the alpaca is shorn, and the fiber is collected. The best fiber is the hair on the back and sides. Then the fiber is cleaned. This step involves picking out all the big debris and shaking out the dirt. Once the fiber is cleaned it is ready to be carded. Carding is the process of getting all the hairs going the same direction. You can use something as simple as dogs brushes to card a small amount of fiber, a table top drum carder that spins that does it a bit faster, or at mills they have a giant carder that is the same size as a room! Once the fiber is carded it is called roving. Roving can be used for crafts like felting or you can move on to spinning. Spinning is the process of turning roving into yarn. This can be done on a spinning wheel, with a drop spindle or at a mill. Most yarns that are very even have been spun at a mill. Yarn is what is used most frequently. You can knit, crochet or weave yarn.
Can i own an alpaca?
Yes! as long as you have a minimum of 2 acres of fenced pasture for them to graze on, can secure hay for the winter, and are willing to and have the time and commitment to take care of at least 2 of them, as they are herd animals. There are a lot of things you need to prepare for before you get alpacas of your own, so we recommend you contact us about visiting for a tour of the farm before you think seriously about picking one out.
Are they like owning a dog?
In a word, No
Being herd animals they get their social interaction from other alpacas. They do not seek your attention, they do not want to be pet by you all the time. At the end of the day they are livestock raised for fiber which is something you must keep in mind. They are still very funny to watch from a distance!
Can i get one to keep inside my house?
Do you have any for sale?
Yes, you can visit our online store to see the animals we are currently trying to find a new home.
What if i want one but do not own any land?
We also offer alpaca adoptions, where we keep the alpaca on our farm and take care of it, and you can visit whenever you want*! take a look at our Visit the farm page for more information.
*note alpaca visits must be done during business hours only, and must be scheduled a minimum of 24 hours prior, and we will do our best to accommodate you
What about goats?
We have goats!
Are your goats fat and happy!?
Yes they are!