Alpacas are adorable, docile, soft, and considered as pets and cattle around the world. They belong to the Camelidae family and granted as the cutest member of it. But beyond their cuteness, they are very skilled, intelligent and mostly famous for the unique fur. 6000 years ago Alpacas were domesticated by the Incas, in the Puna region of the Peruvian Andes. Now their population grown around 250000 in the US with having the highest concentration in Ohio. Outside US, they can be found in New Zealand, Thailand and Netherlands also. Here are some fun and amazing facts about them which definitely deserve attention.
1. Alpacas are South American member of the camel family, Camelidae and closely related to the Vicuna, Guanaco, and llama (known collectively as lamoids).
2. They are related closely but also differs from llama. Alpacas are much smaller, standing at 90 centimeters(35 inches) high and weigh around 55-65kgs (120-145 pounds).
3. Their average lifespan is 15-20 years. The longest lived one had an age of 27 years when died.
There are only 2 breeds of Alpaca, Huacaya (wah-ki-ah) and Suri (soo-ree). The present status of living breeds are 90% huacaya and 10% of Suri. Huacayas have shorter curly fibers. Whereas, Suris have very long fibers that look more like silky dreadlocks.
5. They are vegetarian and only feed on grass and leaves. But, they eat around very little 1.5% of their body weight (only 1-1.5kgs a day).
They don’t have teeth in the top-front of their mouths, which is why they sometimes look a bit goofy.
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7. These animals are highly social, gentle, curious, really good pets and can be trained fairly easy.
They are herd animals and don’t like to be alone. When their own kind aren’t around they like to live with llamas, goats and sheep.
9. These animals do stay clean and generally do not smell bad. A herd used to poop in a particular place rather than random places, which keep them hygienic and prevents diseases to spread.
Females have a gestation period of about 11 months, and typically have only one baby at a time. The babies are called Cria, which means breeding in Spanish. These newborns typically weighs around 4.5-7.5kgs (10-17 pounds).
There is an alpaca-llama hybrid as well, called as ‘llalpaca‘ in the U.S. and ‘huarizo‘ in South America. It is the product of a female alpaca and male llama, and these hybrids are treasured for the unique, long fleece.
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12. Alpaca fiber is practically magical. It is smoother than silk, softer than cotton, warmer than goose down, and more breathable than thermal knit. Also it is the second strongest animal fiber after ‘mohair’ (wool from an angora goat). Unlike other wool, the Lanolin substance present in their fiber makes less itchy, hypoallergenic and water resistant.
There are more than 20 colors of alpaca fiber, ranging from soft white to tan, light grey to true black. Those are just the natural and can be combined to make more colors. Due to the quality it requires less chemicals to dye the wool.
Humming is the most common sound alpacas make. They hum when curious, content, worried, bored, distressed, or cautious. While mating the males emit a unique throaty sound known as ‘orgling‘.
15. During the period of Inca civilization, wearing of robes made of alpaca fleeces was reserved for the nobility and royalty. The Moche people of Northern Peru often used alpaca images in their art.
16. There are no Alpacas present in the wild today, as all are domesticated and not considered endangered.