The camelid family, whose members are llamas, guanacos, Bactrian & Dromedary camels, & vicunas, is where the domesticated Alpaca comes from. Selective breeding was the source of the Alpaca some 6,000 years ago. In 1984, the first major importation of Alpacas took place. About 20,000 Alpacas find their homes in North America today. They are known and farmed for their beautiful fiber and they are also popular show animals.
Alpacas are inexpensive to feed, as they eat forage and hays. Alpacas are pleasant, curious, calm, alert & predictable. They need to have other camelids around them. They move in masses and huddle when frightened or tired. Alpacas are generally disease resistant, but it is still recommend to get yearly vaccinations, regular toe & dental care, and worming. These animals are shorn every 12-18 months. This manages their health & harvests their fleece.
Alpacas live to be 15-20 years old. At 2 1/2 years, males mature sexually. Females are bred at the early age of 16-20 months. They can be bred anytime of the year. A baby alpaca is called a cria, which takes about 335 days of gestation until birth.
Because of the alpaca's unique fiber qualities, the fleece is considered a luxury. There are 2 kinds of alpacas, Suri & Huacaya, which results in 2 different fleece types. Both are soft, but they have individual qualities. Most alpacas are huacayas, which have crimpy, fluffy fleeces. The suri have straight, lustrous and dreadlock-like locks. Young alpacas produce the finest fleece. Alpacas have the most available colors naturally produced in their fleece. They are: black, brown (coffee), white, caramel (light brown), fawn, red or rose, and piebald (colored pattern on white).