Alpacas have been domesticated for thousands of years. The Moche people of northern Peru often used alpaca images in their art. There are no known wild alpacas, though its closest living relative, the vicuña (also native to South America), are believed to be the wild ancestor of the alpaca. The alpaca is larger than the vicuña, but smaller than the other camelid species.
Along with camels and llamas, alpacas are classified as camelids. Of the various camelid species, the alpaca and vicuña are the most valuable fiber-bearing animals: the alpaca because of the quality and quantity of its fiber, and the vicuña because of the softness, fineness and quality of its coat.
Alpacas are too small to be used as pack animals. Instead, they are bred exclusively for their fiber and meat. Alpaca meat was once considered a delicacy by Andean inhabitants. Because of the high price commanded by alpaca on the growing North American alpaca market, illegal alpaca smuggling has become a growing problem.
Alpacas and llamas can successfully cross-breed. The resulting offspring are called huarizo, which are valued for their unique fleece and gentle dispositions.
Alpacas are social herd animals that live in family groups consisting of a territorial alpha male, females and their young. Alpacas warn the herd about intruders by making sharp, noisy inhalations that sound like a high-pitched bray. The herd may attack smaller predators with their front feet, and can spit and kick.
Alpaca fleece is a lustrous and silky natural fiber. While similar to sheep’s wool, it is warmer, not prickly, and bears no lanolin, which makes it hypoallergenic. Without lanolin, it does not repel water. It is also soft and luxurious. In physical structure, alpaca fiber is somewhat akin to hair, being very glossy. The preparing, carding, spinning, weaving and finishing process of alpaca is very similar to the process used for wool. Alpaca fiber is also flame-resistant, and meets the US Consumer Product Safety Commission’s standards.
Alpacas are typically sheared once per year in the spring. Each shearing produces approximately five to ten pounds (2.2–4.5 kilograms) of fiber per alpaca. An adult alpaca might produce 50 to 90 ounces (1420–2550 grams) of first-quality fiber as well as 50 to 100 ounces (1420–2840 grams) of second- and third-quality fiber.
Not all alpacas spit, but all are capable of doing so. “Spit” is somewhat euphemistic; occasionally the projectile contains only air and a little saliva, although alpacas commonly bring up acidic stomach contents (generally a green, grassy mix) and project it onto their chosen targets. Spitting is mostly reserved for other alpacas, but an alpaca will occasionally spit at a human.
For alpacas, spitting results in what is called “sour mouth”. Sour mouth is characterized by a loose-hanging lower lip and a gaping mouth. This is caused by the stomach acids and unpleasant taste of the contents as they pass out of the mouth.
Alpacas use a communal dung pile, where they do not graze. This behavior tends to limit the spread of internal parasites. Generally, males have much tidier, and fewer dung piles than females, which tend to stand in a line and all go at once. One female approaches the dung pile and begins to urinate and / or defecate, and the rest of the herd often follows.
Alpacas make a variety of sounds. When they are in danger, they make a high-pitched, shrieking whine. Some breeds are known to make a “wark” noise when excited. Strange dogs – and even cats – can trigger this reaction. To signal friendly or submissive behavior, alpacas “cluck,” or “click” a sound possibly generated by suction on the soft palate, or possibly in the nasal cavity.
Individuals vary, but most alpacas generally make a humming sound. Hums are often comfort noises, letting the other alpacas know they are present and content. The humming can take on many inflections and meanings.
When males fight, they scream a warbling, bird-like cry, presumably intended to terrify the opponent.
These are just a few of the characteristics of Alpacas. We have seven male alpacas. Three white we named Ed, Edd, and Eddie. Their white fleece, once carded, is very soft and bright. We have one black alpaca called Jet. His fleece is very nice as well. Combining the black and white creates a contrast of frosty grey. We have a dark brown, Coco, and light brown, Obi, and a silver/grey named Crusoe. These three guys have beautiful fiber. Their color is spectacular alone or mixed.
*Basic information provided by Wikipedia