Alpaca Facts

  • Alpacas are members of the Camelid family and closely related to the Llama.
  • Both originate from South America (as did camels).
  • Llamas (the donkeys of South America) are bred as pack animals, used for carrying heavy loads.
  • Alpacas (the sheep of South America) are bred for their fine fleece, which was highly valued by the Incas.
  • Four species of Camelid are found in South America:
    Alpaca (Vicugna pacos), Llama (Lama glama), Guanaco (Lama guanicoe) and Vicugna (Vicugna vicugna)
  • Alpacas are found mainly in Peru, but also in Bolivia and Chile.
  • Alpacas and Llamas are domesticated animals.
  • Both are now bred all over the world.
  • They are descended from the wild Vicuna and Guanaco, which are both now protected species.
  • The Vicuna is the National Animal of Peru, and has one of the finest fleeces of any animal on earth.
  • Alpacas and Llamas can interbreed.
  • Alpacas were first domesticated by the Incas, 6 to 7 thousand years ago.
  • Their fleece was so fine that it was reserved for clothing for the elite.
  • When the Spaniards invaded South America they killed most of the alpacas.
  • Incas fled to the high mountain plains with the surviving alpacas, which then interbred with llamas.
  • Preserved fleece fragments have shown that the Inca’s alpacas had a finer fleece than alpacas have today.
  • Modern-day breeding programmes are striving to return the fleece quality to what it once was.
  • A baby alpaca is called a cria.
  • The gestation period of an alpaca is approximately 11½ months, but can often vary by more than a month.
  • So far our longest at Petlake was 394 days (about 13 months) and our shortest was 328 days (just under 11 months).
  • Most newborn cria weigh 7 to 9 kilos. Our heaviest was 10.3 kilos. Our lightest was just over 5 kilos (and has grown to be one of our best females).
  • Cria will usually walk and feed within an hour or being born.
  • We’ve seen one of our own cria stand and feed in less than 3 minutes.
  • There are two distinct types of alpaca, huacaya (pronounced wa-kaya) and suri.
  • Huacaya have dense crimpy fleece.
  • Suri have long lustrous fleece, that looks like dreadlocks.
  • Huacaya are shorn every year, ideally just before the warm weather starts.
  • Suri are typically shorn every other year.
  • We currently just breed haucaya alpacas at Petlake
  • Alpacas are very friendly, inquisitive animals.
  • Each alpaca has its own distinct personality.
  • Like llamas, alpacas have three modes of defense:
    • Kicking
    • Spitting
    • Running away
  • Unlike llamas, most alpacas don’t spit or kick.
  • Some of our alpacas will allow you to touch them, or even give them a hug.
  • All alpacas tend to be ‘head shy’. This is a defense mechanism to prevent you from blocking their airways or impairing their vision or hearing.