Sunday, February 12, 2012


Alpacas, like llamas, camels, vicunas, and guanacos, are Camelids.  They are herbivores with long necks and a three chambered stomach.  Camelids have two toes with sturdy nails, the bottom of the foot is cushioned by a leathery pad.

There are no known wild Alpacas or Llamas.  DNA studies done by archaeozoologist Jane Wheeler determined that Alpacas are the domesticated descendants of wild vicunas and Llamas are descended from wild guanacos.

Alpacas are covered by a soft fleece which grows five to ten inches a year.  The fleece is used for assorted garments and is as warm and attractive as cashmere - without the itch.

Alpacas come in assorted colors and two varieties:  huacaya which has crimped fleece, lamb like in appearance and
suri with fleece resembling cords such as the Puli or Komondor dogs or in humans sporting dread locks.

Alpaca mom with baby, several hours old

Alpaca Procreation Facts

- gestation:  11 months

- mating occurs when the female is ready.  A male that meets with her approval causes her to ovulate.  A couple days later, they have intercourse.  The male will usually return for another, er, go.  If she has conceived, the female will spit at the male.  Mating is concluded.

- single births are the most common, twins are rare

- the baby, or cria, stands and nurses within an hour of birth.

- birth weight:  15-19 pounds

- the cria's toe nails are covered by a rubbery substance to protect the mother's womb.  This rubbery covering wears off quickly after birth as the youngster walks

Like most herd animals, the alpaca is vulnerable to attacks from predators.  A secure fence is critical to alpaca safety.

More Alpaca Facts

- first  domesticated in South America

- height:  36 inches at withers (top of shoulder/base of neck)

- weight:  100-175 pounds

- lifespan 15-25 years

What's the difference between a Llama and an Alpaca, you ask?  

Llamas are roughly twice the size of Alpacas.  Llama fleece is typically not as soft and is less desirable for spinning into cloth.  Llamas are used mainly as pack animals.  Alpaca ears are spear shaped.  Llama ears are longer and banana shaped.

for more information on Alpacas:
Llamas and Alpacas by Sue Weaver (Hobby Farms Books)


  1. I always wondered if Alpacas spit like Llamas do. Thanks for clearing that up Lynn. The baby is adorable!