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Alpaca Facts

The alpaca is a species of South American camelid mammal. It is closely related to the llama and can crossbreed with it.

They live in herds in the Andes of Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, and the North of Chile at an altitude of 3,500 to 5,000 meters (11,000 to 16,000 feet) above sea level.

They are social herd animals that warn each other of intruders with sharp, noisy inhalations and can spit, kick and attack. 

Alpaca Facts For Kids

  • Alpacas are domesticated versions of the vicuña
  • They live in the Andes at high altitude
  • Alpacas live about 20 years on average
  • They are related to llamas
  •  Alpacas are used for their wool
  • They were domesticated around 6000 years ago
  • There are two types of alpaca Huacaya and Suri

Types of Alpaca

Huacaya Alpacas

Huacaya alpacas make up about 90% of the population. Suri alpacas are thought to have originated in pre-Colonial Peru.

Suri Alpacas

Approximately 10% of alpacas are Suri. It is thought they were more prevalent in pre-Columbian Peru since they were kept in lower altitudes where thicker fleeces weren’t needed for harsh weather.

How Big are Alpacas

Alpacas grow to about 3 feet tall at the shoulder and weigh 100 – 150 pounds. 

A baby alpaca is called a “cria.” 

A female alpaca is called an “hembra.” 

Facts for Kids x
Facts for Kids

A male alpaca is called a “macho.”

What do alpacas look like?

They are larger than their cousins, the vicunas, but small compared to the llama. They have short faces with spear-shaped ears.

Each type of alpaca is different in appearance. The Huacaya alpaca’s fiber is wavy with crimp. The tighter the crimp, the higher the quality. The Suri alpaca has straight and uncrimped fiber.

  • Legs that are straight both in front and back
  • A straight back without any humps
  • A round rump (butt)
  • With a short triangular muzzle
  • A pair of spear-shaped ears
  • A neck that is two thirds the length of its back

What colors do alpacas come in?

There are 16 colors plus eight additional classes that aren’t colors. Alpaca fiber can have multiple colors, both primary and secondary. The most common color is white, with over 25% 

The 16 recognized colors include:

  • White 
  • Beige
  • Light fawn
  • Medium fawn
  • Dark fawn
  • Lights brown 
  • Medium brown
  • Dark brown 
  • Bay black 
  • True black
  • Light silver grey
  • Medium silver grey
  • Dark silver grey
  • Light rose grey
  • Medium rose grey
  • Dark rose grey

The 8 additional classes include:

  • Modern grey
  • Classic grey
  • Indefinite light
  • Indefinite dark
  • Pattern
  • Pinto
  • Fancy
  • Appaloosa

Is an alpaca birth called an unpacking?

Unpacking is the birthing process of an alpaca. It requires little intervention. All births occur in the morning since they can do it themselves. Any late birth is usually a sign of complications.

Is alpaca spit poisonous?

Humans are not at risk from it. Spit usually contains some stomach acid. If you get it in your eyes or mouth, it’s not dangerous, but it can be irritating.

How old do alpacas live?

Llamas and alpacas crossbreed. Huarizos are their offspring and have longer fleeces. 

The oldest alpaca lived to 27 years old. A typical alpaca lives 15 to 20 years.

How much do alpacas weigh?

They are generally born weighing 8-23 pounds. A typical one weighs 100-200 pounds, but the ideal weight is between 105-185 pounds. 

Can you ride an alpaca?

They cannot be ridden. This is due to their bone structure. They don’t like things placed on their backs either.

Do alpacas bite?

They’re docile and don’t bite. Some males can fight and hurt each other.

Training

Alpacas are usually very trainable and will respond to rewards in the form of food. They are able to be petted without getting agitated and can be used as therapy animals in nursing homes and hospitals.

Do alpacas spit?

Alpacas can spit, but it is mostly reserved for other alpacas. They can spit up to ten feet if they need to and give a slight warning before doing so.

Sounds

Alpacas make a variety of sounds, including humming, snorting, grumbling, clucking, screaming, and screeching. They scream when they are in distress, worried, curious, happy, or cautious, and screech when they are scared or angry.

Reproduction

Females ovulate after mating, and artificial insemination is difficult and expensive, but it can be accomplished.

A male is ready to mate for the first time between two and three years of age, and a female should wait until she is 18 months old before breeding.

Alpacas can breed at any time of the year, but most breed during autumn or late spring.

An alpaca’s gestation period is 11.5 months, and she gives birth to a single offspring, which is usually standing 30 to 90 minutes after birth. She is receptive to breeding again after two weeks.