Alpaca are often confused with Llama. They are cousins, both from the Camelid family. Alpaca are noticeably smaller than Llama, usually growing to about 150 lbs. vice as much as 400 lbs. for the llama.
Here’s an Alpaca family. That’s Molly on the left. That’s Murph, the husband and father, and Baby Furball in the middle!
The Alpaca’s body is slender, as you can see here looking at Freddie. It has a small head and pointed ears. Its feet are soft and padded, enabling it to leave even delicate grasses and terrain undamaged..
It is best known for its soft fleece. The fleece can come in a variety of colors. Lulu, here in the center, shows off her beautiful tan fleece.
The Smithsonian’s National Zoo has said,
“Their crimpy fiber grows perpendicular to the skin, giving them a wooly appearance … Alpacas are the smallest of the domesticated camelid species … Alpacas are one of the domesticated members of the camel (camelid) family, which also includes llamas … Researchers believe that alpacas were developed through selective breeding … alpacas are important to Andean herders, providing luxury fiber and meat. Their compact size contributes to easy management and to desirability as a companion animal. Alpacas easily learn to lead, jump in and out of vehicles, cush (sit down) and obey other simple commands. Alpacas are shorn for their valuable fleeces. Males produce approximately 8 pounds and females about 5 pounds of easily marketable fiber from their coats per year.”
Alpacas are herd animals. They feel the safest run numbers. Having just one Alpaca is not a good idea. They need companionship.
Alpaca are very docile, quite social, much more so than its cousin, the Llama. As a result, they make terrific pets. They are domesticated, no such thing as a wild Alpaca.
Much like cousin Llama, Alpaca spit. If they are competing for food with another Alpaca, they will even spit at him.
Alpacas, like other camelids, have a three-chambered stomach; combined with chewing cud, this three-chambered system allows maximum extraction of nutrients from low-quality forages.
This may be too much detail, but they use the same area as a bathroom, which helps control parasites. Males are said to have cleaner dung piles than females. And, in case you are wondering, female Alpacas like to stand in line and all go at once!
There are two breeds of alpaca, the Huacaya and the Suri. Huacaya alpacas are more common