A FEW WORDS ABOUT ALPACAS
Alpacas may just be the cutest of all the Camelidae family, which includes llamas, guanacos and vicunas from South America, and Bactrian and Dromedary camels from Asia and Africa.
But beyond their charming, quirky good looks, these creatures are responsible for bearing some of the silkiest, most versatile fiber found in nature, for which they are shorn annually. Alpaca is a specialty fiber that has been described as stronger than mohair, finer than cashmere, smoother than silk, softer than cotton, warmer than goose down, and better-breathing than thermal knits. Along with that, alpacas themselves possess some pretty remarkable personality traits.
1. They’re ancient
Alpacas were domesticated by the Incas more than 6,000 years ago and raised for their exquisite fleece. Due to its quality and all of its superhero characteristics, alpaca fiber was reserved exclusively for the elite and nobility.
2. They live a long time
Alpacas generally around 15 to 20 years and are healthy, hardy livestock.
3. They grow superlative, hypoallergenic fleece
Alpaca fiber is much like sheep’s wool, but warmer and not itchy. It is lacking in lanolin, which makes it hypoallergenic and also allows it to be processed without the need for high temperatures or harsh chemicals in washing.
Their fiber is flame-resistant, meeting the standards of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission's rigid testing specifications as a Class 1 fiber for use in clothing and furnishings.
Like wool, alpaca fiber is water-resistant, but it can wick away moisture because of its unique ability to mimic cotton in moisture regain. These attributes are what make alpaca feel lighter than wool, but warmer than cotton in cool and damp climates.
Alpaca fiber comes in 16 tones that are recognized by the textile industry, from white to light rose gray to dark fawn, in addition to the blends that can be made from those, thus minimizing the need for pollution-intensive dying.
Fiber is usually shorn annually in the spring.
4. There are two types of alpacas in this world...
Alpacas come in two types: Suri and the huacaya. The suri has fiber that grows long and forms silky dreadlocks. The huacaya has a wooly, dense, crimped fleece — like a teddy bear — giving it a very wooly appearance. About 90 percent of all alpacas in the North America are huacayas. Alpacas and llamas are “cousins”, but alpacas are much smaller with much finer fleece.
5. Do alpacas spit?
Unlike their cousin the llama, alpacas generally only spit at each other – usually over food or males having squabbles over females. If they are really, really annoyed, however…
6. They share a bathroom
Alpacas use a communal dung pile (where they do not graze). Because of their predisposition for using a dung pile, some alpacas have been successfully house-trained.
7. They hum and haw ... and orgle
Humming is the most common sound that alpacas make, which has been described as a kind of musical purring. Alpacas hum when they are curious, content, worried, bored, fearful, distressed or cautious. When startled or in danger, a staccato braying is started by one animal, then followed by the rest of the herd in the direction of the potential threat. During breeding, the male alpaca Romeo emits a unique throaty vocalization called “orgling.”
8. What do alpacas eat
Alpacas are very efficient processors of food. They mainly eat grass on low protein grass hay. Alfalfa should be used sparingly. An average adult alpaca will eat about 1.5% of their body weight daily in hay or fresh pasture. A 60 pound bale of hay can generally feed a herd of 20 alpacas for one day. Pregnant or lactating females will benefit from nutritional and mineral supplements. And plenty of fresh water.