The alpaca is a cousins to the llama. It is a beautiful, intelligent animal native to the Andean Mountain range of South America, particularly Peru, Bolivia, and Chile. The United States first commercially imported alpacas in 1984. Over 160,000 alpacas are now registered in North America.
There are two types of alpacas in the United States today. Although almost physically identical, what distinguishes the two types is their fiber. The Huacaya (wa-Ki’-ah) is the more common of the two and has a fluffy, extremely fine coat. The Suri (SUR-ee) is the rarer of the two and has fiber that is silky and resembles pencil-locks.
Adults stand at approximately 36 inches at the withers and generally weigh between 150 and 200 pounds. They do not have horns, hooves, claws or incisors. They are alert, intelligent, curious, predictable, social animals that seek companionship. Alpacas communicate most commonly by humming softly.
Alpacas are shorn, without harm, every twelve to eighteen months. They produce five to ten pounds of luxurious fiber. This fiber was once reserved for royalty. Today, hand-spinners and fiber artists purchased it in its raw fleece form. Knitters buy it as yarn.
Alpaca fiber is as soft as cashmere. Its silk-like luster make it even more coveted. It is as warm as wool, yet 1/3 the weight. Alpaca fiber is:
- Warmer than wool. Individual strands of alpaca fiber are hollow. This makes each fiber lighter and, because of the trapped air inside each fiber, a great insulator. Due to its breathability, all-season comfort is possible because alpaca clothing shields you from warm and cool temperatures.
- Soft as cashmere. No kidding.
- Hypoallergenic. Those who are allergic to wool won’t have such problems with alpaca, because it contains no lanolin.
- Moisture wicking. Alpaca fiber draws moisture away so it can evaporate gradually.
- Durable. It is resistant to piling and the fiber retains its shape over time.
- Flame resistant. It is also marginally flame retardant, which means it will self-extinguish.
Alpacas and llamas are cousins…but they are different
The good news is that our open houses are growing in popularity and more and more families are visiting. Unfortunately, sometimes it can be difficult to make it around and answer everyones’ questions about these neat creatures. Because these posters hang around the farm and inside the gift shop, our visitors can learn at their own pace.