The scientific name for alpaca is Vicugna pacos. They are in the Camelidae family and are related to camels and llamas.
Alpacas are commonly confused with llamas as they look similar, but alpacas are much smaller than llamas and they have different ears and head shape. Check out this article to learn how to tell the difference: What’s the Difference Between a Llama and an Alpaca?
Alpacas were domesticated around 6,000 years ago in South America, and there are no wild alpacas. They are believed to be descendants of vicuna, which are native to high alpine areas of the Andes. The largest population of alpacas can be found in Peru and they are also found all over the world.
There are two breeds of alpaca: Huacaya alpaca and Suri alpaca. Huacaya are more common, and only about 10% of alpaca in South America are Suri. Alpacas are bred for their fiber. Suri alpaca have long silky fibers and they sort of look like they have dreadlocks. Huacaya alpaca look more fluffy with shorter, crimpy fibers, and it is more like wool. Their fiber is warmer than wool, not prickly, and has no lanolin, so it is hypoallergenic.
A baby alpaca is called a cria, a male is a macho, and a female is a hembra. When they are first born, they may be 15 to 20 pounds. An adult alpaca can be 32 to 39 inches tall at the withers and weigh 106 to 185 pounds. They live on average 15 to 20 years.
Like camels and llamas, alpacas can spit. They occasionally spit at people, but are more likely to spit at each other during arguments. They are gentle and intelligent animals.
Alpacas are social herd animals. In addition to being kept for their fiber, they can also be trained and kept as pets. They can live in a herd with other animals like llamas, goats, sheep, donkeys, and horses.
Alpacas have no top front teeth, just bottom teeth. They eat mainly grass, hay, and grain.
They make noise! Hear them in this video: