Alpacas are the smallest species of domesticated camelids (camel family). They look almost just like a llama, except smaller. They have small heads, with large eyes and large pointed ears. Their necks, bodies and legs are slender. They have two sharp, pointed nails on the end of each padded foot. They can come in many different colors and be either one solid color, or multicolor. Males and females look basically the same, except that the males can have larger bottom teeth used in fighting. There are two different breeds of alpaca. The huacaya (which are the most common) have long crimpy hair that covers their neck, legs and body. The suri have much silkier hair that grows faster.
Alpacas are native to the Andes Mountains of South America. They live at high elevations up on the grassland plateaus. Since they are a domesticated species however, they can be found all over the world on farms.
Length: 47-89”. Weight: 121-143lbs.
- A baby alpaca is known as a “cria.”
- They have a low impact on their environment since they don’t pack down the soil or destroy vegetation.
- Alpacas are farmed mainly for their “fiber” or fleece, which is warmer and stronger than wool. They are also farmed for their healthy meat, skin and dung.
- It is thought that alpacas were domesticated 6000 years ago.
After the Spanish conquistadors came to South America, alpacas were replaced by sheep and goats in the lowlands. Even today, the majority of them are only found in high elevations. The major threat to this species is hybridization with llamas. IUCN has not evaluated this species.
There are several organizations dedicated to promoting, breeding and showing alpacas.
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