Alpacas are domesticated South American camelids that are highly valued for their fiber, which is used to make clothing and textiles. They are closely related to llamas and are often confused with them, but there are some distinct differences between the two species.
Alpacas are smaller than llamas, with a height of around 36 inches at the shoulder and a weight of 100-200 pounds. They have a soft, thick coat of fiber that comes in a variety of natural colors, including white, brown, black, and gray. The fiber is sheared once a year and can be spun into yarn for use in a wide range of products.
Alpacas are social animals and are often kept in herds. They are gentle and curious creatures that can be trained to lead on a halter and are often used in therapy programs for their calming presence. They are also relatively easy to care for, requiring only basic maintenance such as regular shearing, nail trimming, and vaccinations.
There are two types of alpacas: huacaya and suri. Huacaya alpacas have a woolly, crimped coat that gives them a fluffy appearance, while suri alpacas have long, silky fiber that hangs in ringlets. Both types of alpacas are valued for their fiber, but suri fiber is more rare and therefore more expensive.
Alpacas were first domesticated by the Incas in Peru and have been bred for their fiber for thousands of years. Today, they are found all over the world, but are most commonly raised in South America, Australia, New Zealand, and the United States. They are also sometimes kept as pets or used for guard animal duties, as they are known to be protective of their herd against predators such as coyotes and dogs.