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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

An unshorn alpaca grazing
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Artiodactyla
Family: Camelidae
Genus: Vicugna
Species: V. pacos
Binomial name
Vicugna pacos
(Linnaeus, 1758)
Alpaca range

Alpaca (Vicugna pacos) is a domesticated species of South American camelid. It resembles a small llama in appearance.

Alpacas are kept in herds that graze on the level heights of the Andes of southern Peru, northern Bolivia, Ecuador, and northern Chile at an altitude of 3,500 m (11,500 ft) to 5,000 m (16,000 ft) above sea-level, throughout the year.[1] Alpacas are considerably smaller than llamas, and unlike llamas, alpacas were not bred to be beasts of burden but were bred specifically for their fiber. Alpaca fiber is used for making knitted and woven items, much as wool is. These items include blankets, sweaters, hats, gloves, scarves, a wide variety of textiles and ponchos in South America, and sweaters, socks, coats and bedding in other parts of the world. The fiber comes in more than 52 natural colors as classified in Peru, 12 as classified in Australia and 16 as classified in the United States. [2]

In the textile industry, "alpaca" primarily refers to the hair of Peruvian alpacas, but more broadly it refers to a style of fabric originally made from alpaca hair but now often made from similar fibers, such as mohair, Icelandic sheep wool, or even high-quality English wool.[citation needed] In trade, distinctions are made between alpacas and the several styles of mohair and luster.



Ceramic alpaca, Moche culture (Larco Museum, Lima)

Alpacas have been domesticated for thousands of years. The Moche people of Northern Peru often used alpaca images in their art.[3] There are no wild alpacas. The closest living species are the wild vicuña, also native to South America, which is believed to be the wild ancestor of the alpaca.[4] Along with camels and llamas, the alpaca are classified as camelids. The alpaca is larger than the vicuña but smaller than the other camelid species.

Of the various camelid species, the alpaca and vicuña are the most valuable fiber-bearing animals: the alpaca because of the quality and quantity of its fiber, and the vicuña because of the softness, fineness and quality of its coat. Alpacas are too small to be used as pack animals. Instead, they are bred exclusively for their fiber and meat.

Alpaca meat was once considered a delicacy by Andean inhabitants. A recent resurgence in alpaca meat was curtailed by a recent change to Peruvian law granting the alpaca protected status. Today, it is illegal to slaughter or trade in alpaca meat. Because of the high price commanded by alpaca on the growing North American alpaca market, illegal alpaca smuggling has become a growing problem.[5]

Alpacas and llamas can successfully cross-breed. The resulting offspring are called huarizo, which are valued for their unique fleece and gentle dispositions.


Closeup of an alpaca's face

Alpacas are social herd animals that live in family groups consisting of a territorial alpha male, females and their young. Alpacas warn the herd about intruders by making sharp, noisy inhalations that sound like a high pitched bray. The herd may attack smaller predators with their front feet, and can spit and kick.


Not all alpacas spit, but all are capable of doing so. "Spit" is somewhat euphemistic; occasionally the projectile contains only air and a little saliva, although alpacas commonly bring up acidic stomach contents (generally a green grassy mix) and project it onto their chosen target. Spitting is mostly reserved for other alpacas, but an alpaca will occasionally spit at a human.

For alpacas, spitting results in what is called "sour mouth". Sour mouth is characterized by a loose-hanging lower lip and a gaping mouth. This is caused by the stomach acids and unpleasant taste of the contents as they pass out of the mouth.

Physical contact

Alpacas do not like being grabbed. Some alpacas tolerate being stroked or petted anywhere on their bodies, although many do not like their feet, lower legs, and especially their abdomen touched or handled.

A Bolivian man and his alpaca


To help alpacas control their internal parasites they have a communal dung pile, where they do not graze. Generally, males have much tidier, and fewer dung piles than females who tend to stand in a line and all go at once. One female approaches the dung pile and begins to urinate and/or defecate, and the rest of the herd often follows.

Because of their preference for using a dung pile, some alpacas have been successfully house-trained.[citation needed]


A group of alpacas

Alpacas make a variety of sounds. When they are in danger, they make a high-pitched, shrieking whine. Some breeds are known to make a "wark" noise when excited. Strange dogs—and even cats—can trigger this reaction. To signal friendly or submissive behavior, alpacas "cluck," or "click" a sound possibly generated by suction on the soft palate, or possibly in the nasal cavity.

Individuals vary, but most alpacas generally make a humming sound. Hums are often comfort noises, letting the other alpacas know they are present and content. The humming can take on many inflections and meanings.

When males fight they scream a warbling bird-like cry, presumably intended to terrify the opponent.


A closeup of an alpaca

Females are "induced ovulators"; the act of mating and the presence of semen causes them to ovulate. Occasionally, females conceive after just one breeding, but occasionally do have troubles conceiving. Artificial insemination is technically difficult, but it can be accomplished. Alpacas conceived from artificial insemination are not registerable with the Alpaca Registry.[6]

A male is usually ready to mate for the first time between one and three years of age. A female alpaca may fully mature (physically and mentally) between 12−24 months. It is not advisable to allow a young female to be bred until she is mature, as over breeding a young female before conception is possible is a common cause of uterine infections. As the age of maturation varies greatly between individuals, it is usually recommended that novice breeders wait until females are 18 months of age or older before initiating breeding.

Pregnancies last 11.5 months ± 2 weeks, and usually result in a single offspring, or cria. Twins are rare, approximately 11000. After a female gives birth, she is generally receptive to breeding again after approximately two weeks. Crias may be weaned through human intervention at approximately 6 months and 60 pounds. However, many breeders prefer to allow the female to decide when to wean her offspring. Offspring can be weaned earlier or later depending on their size and emotional maturity.

Alpacas generally live for up to 20 years.

History of the scientific name

Shorn alpacas

The relationship between alpacas and vicuñas was disputed for many years. In the 18th and 19th centuries, the four South American lamoid species were assigned scientific names. At that time, the alpaca was assumed to be descended from the llama, ignoring similarities in size, fleece and dentition between the alpaca and the vicuña. Classification was complicated by the fact that all four species of South American camelid can interbreed and produce fertile offspring. It was not until the advent of DNA technology that a more accurate classification was possible.

In 2001, the alpaca genus classification changed from Lama pacos to Vicugna pacos following the presentation of a paper[4] on work by Dr. Jane Wheeler et al. on alpaca DNA to the Royal Society showing that the alpaca is descended from the vicuña, not the guanaco.

Poisonous to alpacas

Suri alpaca

Many plants are poisonous to the alpaca, including the bracken fern, fireweed, oleander, and some azaleas. In common with similar livestock, others include: acorns, African rue, agave, Amaryllis, Autumn Crocus, Bear Grass, Broom Snakeweed, Buckwheat, Ragweed, Buttercups, Calla lily, Orange tree, Carnations, beans from the castor oil plant, Cress, and a great many others.[7]


Alpaca fleece is a lustrous and silky natural fiber. While similar to sheep’s wool, it is warmer, not prickly, and bears no lanolin, which makes it hypoallergenic[8][9]. Without lanolin, it does not repel water. It is also soft and luxurious. In physical structure, alpaca fiber is somewhat akin to hair, being very glossy. The preparing, carding, spinning, weaving and finishing process of alpaca is very similar to the process used for wool.


The price for American alpacas can range from US$100 for a desexed male or gelding to US$500,000 for the highest of champions in the world, depending on breeding history, sex, and color.[10] However, according to an academic study[11] the higher prices sought for alpaca breeding stock are largely speculative and not supported by market fundamentals, given the low inherent returns per head from the main end product alpaca fiber, and prices into the $100s per head rather than $10000s would be required for a commercially viable fiber production herd.[12] Breeding stock prices in Australia have fallen from AU $10,000-30,000 head in 1997 to an average of AU$ 3,000-4000 today.

It is possible to raise up to 25 alpacas per hectare (10 alpacas per acre).[citation needed] as they have a designated area for waste products and keep their eating area away from their waste area. But this ratio differs from country to country and is highly dependent on the quality of pasture available (in Australia it is generally only possible to run one to three animals per acre due to drought). Fiber quality is the primary variant in the price achieved for alpaca wool; in Australia it is common to classify the fiber by the thickness of the individual hairs and by the amount of vegetable matter contained in the supplied shearings.


Alpacas need to eat 1-2% of body weight per day, so about two 60 lb (27 kg) bales of grass hay per month per animal. When formulating a proper diet for alpacas, water and hay analysis should be performed to determine the proper vitamin and mineral supplementation program. Two options are to provide free choice salt/mineral powder, or feed a specially formulated ration. Indigenous to the highest regions of the Andes, this harsh environment has created an extremely hardy animal, so only minimal housing and predatory fencing are needed.[13] The alpaca’s 3-chambered stomachs allow for extremely efficient digestion. There is no organic matter (seeds) in the manure because alpacas prefer to only eat tender plant leaves, and will not consume thick plant stems; therefore alpaca manure does not need composting to enrich pastures or ornamental landscaping. Nail and teeth trimming is needed every 6-12 months, along with annual shearing. Similar to ruminants such as cattle and sheep, alpacas have only lower teeth at the front of their mouths; therefore, they do not pull grass up by the roots. However, rotating pastures is still important as alpacas have a tendency to re-graze an area repeatedly. Alpacas are fiber animals; they do not need to be slaughtered to reap their product, and their fiber is a renewable resource that grows yearly.

See also

  • Grass Mud Horse, a parody originating from Mainland China of 2009 that features the alpaca


  1. ^ "Harvesting of textile animal fibres". UN Food and Agriculture Organization. 
  2. ^ "Alpaca color". Retrieved 2008-04-23. 
  3. ^ Berrin, Katherine & Larco Museum. The Spirit of Ancient Peru:Treasures from the Museo Arqueológico Rafael Larco Herrera. New York: Thames and Hudson, 1997.
  4. ^ a b Wheeler, Dr Jane; Miranda Kadwell, Matilde Fernandez, Helen F. Stanley, Ricardo Baldi, Raul Rosadio, Michael W. Bruford (12 2001). "Genetic analysis reveals the wild ancestors of the llama and the alpaca". Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 268 (1485): 2575–2584. doi:10.1098/rspb.2001.1774. 0962-8452 (Paper) 1471-2954 (Online). 
  5. ^ "Microchips to guard Peruvian Alpacas". BBC News. 2005-03-30. 
  6. ^ International Alpaca Registry (IAR)
  7. ^ Plants that are poisonous to alpacas
  8. ^ Quiggle, Charlotte. "Alpaca: An Ancient Luxury." Interweave Knits Fall 2000: 74-76.
  9. ^ Stoller, Debbie, Stitch 'N Bitch Crochet, New York: Workman, 2006, p. 18.
  10. ^ "Snowmass Alpaca Sale 2006" (PDF). 2006-02-25. Retrieved 2007-02-06. 
  11. ^ Alpaca Lies? Do Alpacas Represent the Latest Speculative Bubble in Agriculture? University of California, Davis Saitone & Sexton 2005
  12. ^ Alpacas: A handbook for Farmers and Investors; Tuckwell RIRDC 1997
  13. ^ Alpaca Owners & Breeders Association, Inc. (AOBA)


External links

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

ALPACA, one of two domesticated breeds of South American camel-like ungulates, derived from the wild huanaco or guanaco. Alpacas are kept in large flocks which graze on the level heights of the Andes of southern Peru and northern Bolivia, at an elevation of from 14,000 to 16,000 ft. above the sea-level, throughout the year. They are not used as beasts of burden like llamas, but are valued only for their wool, of which the Indian blankets and ponchos are made. The colour is usually dark brown or black and the coat of great length, reaching nearly to the ground. In stature the alpaca (Lama huanacos pacos) is considerably inferior to the llama, but has the same unpleasant habit of spitting.

In the textile industries "alpaca" is a name given to two distinct things. It is primarily a term applied to the wool, or rather hair, obtained from the Peruvian alpaca. It is, however, more broadly applied to a style of fabric originally made from the alpaca wool but now frequently made from an allied type of wool, viz. mohair, Iceland, or even from lustrous English wool. In the trade, distinctions are made between alpacas and the several styles of mohairs and lustres, but so far as the general purchaser is concerned little or no distinction is made.

The four species of indigenous South American wool-bearing animals are the llama, the alpaca, the guanaco and the vicu�The llama and the alpaca are domesticated; the guanaco and the vicuna run wild. Of the four the alpaca and the vicu�re the most valuable wool-bearing animals: the alpaca on account of the quality and quantity, the vicu�n account of the softness, fineness and quality of its wool. In the early days of the 19th century, the usual length of alpaca staples appears to have been about 12 in., this being a three years' growth; but to-day the length is little more than about half this, i.e. a one to two years' growth, although from time to time longer staples are to be found. The fleeces are sorted for colour and quality by skilled native women. The colour of the greater proportion of alpaca imported into the United Kingdom is black and brown, but there is also a fair proportion of white, grey and fawn. It is customary to mix these colours together, thus producing a curious ginger-coloured yarn, which upon being dyed black in the piece takes a fuller and deeper shade than can be obtained by piecedyeing a solid-coloured wool. In physical structure alpaca is somewhat akin to hair, being very glossy, but its softness and fineness enable the spinner to produce satisfactory yarns with comparative ease.

The history of the manufacture of this wool into cloth is one of the romances of commerce. Undoubtedly the Indians of Peru employed this fibre in the manufacture of many styles of fabrics for centuries before its introduction into Europe as a commercial product. The first European importations would naturally be into Spain. Spain, however, transferred the fibre to Germany and France. Apparently alpaca yarn was spun in England for the first time about the year 1808. It does not appear to have made any headway, however, and alpaca wool was condemned as an unworkable material. In 1830 Benjamin Outram, of Greetland, near Halifax, appears to have again attempted the spinning of this fibre, and for the second time alpaca was condemned. These two attempts to use alpaca were failures owing to the style of fabric into which the yarn was woven - a species of camlet. It was not until the introduction of cotton warps into the Bradford trade about 1836 that the true qualities of alpaca could be developed in the fabric. Where the cotton warp and mohair or alpaca weft plain-cloth came from is not known, but it was this simple yet ingenious structure which enabled Titus Salt, then a young Bradford manufacturer, to utilize alpaca successfully. Bradford is still the great spinning and manufacturing centre for alpacas, large quantities of yarns and cloths being exported annually to the continent and to the United States, although the quantities naturally vary in accordance with the fashions in vogue, the typical "alpaca-fabric" being a very characteristic "dress-fabric." The following statistics, taken from Hooper's Statistics of the Woollen and Worsted Trades of the United Kingdom, give an idea of the extent of the trade in yarns and fabrics of the alpaca type; unfortunately statistics for alpaca alone are not published.








18 54










18 7 0






























Alpaca, Vicuna, and Llama Wool imported into the United Kingdom. Note. - In 1840 the imports into, exports from, and consumed in the United Kingdom of mohair, alpaca, vicuna, &c., amounted to £50,000.

Exports of Mohair and Alpaca Yarns for T905.


1,288,800 lb

. £168,596


9,851,200 �

. 1,145,795


316,400 �

. 40,409


2,006,700 �

. 223,605

Exports of Alpaca from the United Kingdom to the United States. 1881. £1,256 1900. £30,631 1890. - 1905 4,954 Owing to the success in the manufacture of the various styles of alpaca cloths attained by Sir Titus Salt and other Bradford manufacturers, a great demand for alpaca wool arose, and this demand could not be met by the native product, for there never seems to have been any appreciable increase in the number of alpacas available. Unsuccessful attempts were made to acclimatize the alpaca goat in England, on the European continent and in Australia, and even to cross certain English breeds of sheep 1 Grown in Peru but shipped from Valparaiso.

with the alpaca. There is, however, a cross between the alpaca and the llama - a true hybrid in every sense - producing a material placed upon the Liverpool market under the name "Huarizo." Crosses between the alpaca and vicu�ave not proved satisfactory.

The preparing, combing, spinning, weaving and finishing of alpacas and mohairs are dealt with under WooL. (A. F. B.)

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Up to date as of January 15, 2010
(Redirected to alpaca article)

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

See also alpacca



An alpaca (Vicugna pacos)


From Spanish, from Aymara allpaca.


  • IPA: /ælˈpækæ/
  • Rhymes: -ækæ


Wikipedia has an article on:



alpaca or alpacas

alpaca (plural alpaca or alpacas)

  1. A sheeplike animal of the Andes. It is a South American member of the camel family, Camelidae (order Artiodactyla), of mammals; its Latin name is Lama pacos. It is closely related to the llama, guanaco, and vicuña, which are referred to collectively as lamoids.




From Aymara allpaca.



alpaca m. (plural alpaca's)

  1. alpaca



From Aymara allpaca.


alpaca f.

  1. alpaca


Up to date as of January 23, 2010
(Redirected to Vicugna pacos article)

From Wikispecies


Vicugna pacos

Main Page
Cladus: Eukaryota
Supergroup: Unikonta
Cladus: Opisthokonta
Regnum: Animalia
Subregnum: Eumetazoa
Cladus: Bilateria
Cladus: Nephrozoa
Cladus: Deuterostomia
Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Infraphylum: Gnathostomata
Superclassis: Tetrapoda
Classis: Mammalia
Subclassis: Theria
Infraclassis: Placentalia
Superordo: Cetartiodactyla
Ordo: Artiodactyla
Subordo: Tylopoda
Familia: Camelidae
Genus: Vicugna
Species: Vicugna pacos


Vicugna pacos (Linnaeus, 1758)


Lama pacos

Vernacular names

Català: Alpaca
Česky: Alpaka
Deutsch: Alpaka
English: Alpaca
Español: Alpaca
Français: Alpako
Gàidhlig: Alpaca
Ido: Alpako
Interlingua: Alpaca
Lietuvių: Alpaka
Magyar: Alpaka
Nederlands: Alpaca
‪Norsk (bokmål)‬: Alpakka
Polski: Alpaka
Português: Alpaca
Suomi: Alpakka
Svenska: Alpacka


  • Wheeler, Jane C. "A brief History of Camelids in the Western Hemisphere". International Camelid Quarterly 2006 ICID. 2006. ISSN 1705-0332.

Simple English

File:Unshorn alpaca
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Artiodactyla
Family: Camelidae
Genus: Vicugna
Species: V. pacos
Binomial name
Vicugna pacos
(Linnaeus, 1758)

The Alpaca (Vicugna pacos) is a domesticated species of South American camelid. It resembles a small llama in superficial appearance.


Camelids originated on the central plains of North America. The ancestral camelids migrated to South America. By the end of the last ice age, camelids became extinct in North America. The ancestral camelid developed into the present day wild vicuna and wild guanaco of the Andean highlands (Peru, Bolivia, and Chile) of South America.


About 5,000 to 6,000 years ago the natives began the domestication of the vicuna into the present day alpaca as a fiber producing animal.

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