Archie's Alpaca Facts
WHERE DO ALPACAS COME FROM?
Alpacas (vicugña pacos) are an indigenous species of South America and are part of the camelid family.
Originating from high in the Andes and mountains of mainly Peru, but also Chile and Bolivia they were domesticated by the Incas over 6,000 years ago. Other members of the South American Camelid family are Llamas, Vicuna and Guanaco.
ARE THERE DIFFERENT TYPES OF ALPACA?
There are only two breeds of alpaca, Huacaya (wah-ki-yah) and less common Suri (sur-ree). Huacaya fleece is very soft, dense and fluffy with a crimp, the Suri fleece has long strands of wavy hair, like dreadlocks.
WHAT COLOUR ARE ALPACAS?
Alpaca fleece comes in more than 22 natural shades ranging from white to fawn to brown to grey and black.
Alpaca fleece is hypoallergenic and the fibre is flame resistant.
CAN YOU HAVE JUST ONE ALPACA?
Alpacas are herd animals and do not like to be left on their own, they feel more secure and are happier within a group.
CAN YOU CUDDLE AN ALPACA?
Alpacas are not usually keen on being touched and will run or skip away if you try to approach them. They especially do not like being touched on the head. Alpacas are naturally curious animals and if you let them approach you the reaction can be very gratifying.
Alpacas are very intelligent animals and learn very quickly and within just a few times of being shown they will pick up a certain skill, such as putting on a head halter or being led on a walk, they will over time get used to being touched and will often approach you for a cuddle or a stroke - this, as with other animals, depends on their personality. Archie loves a cuddle.
HOW LONG DO ALPACAS LIVE?
Alpacas can live up to 20 years
WHAT DO ALPACAS EAT?
Alpacas are modified ruminants, which means they chew cud like a cow or sheep but have one less stomach (3 instead of 4). They graze on grass and will eat hay and leaves, they can also have a small amount of dried food as a supplement, but this normally just provides them with vitamins and minerals. As alpacas evolved in harsh conditions, they utilise their food and the ability to convert grass into energy more efficiently than other ruminants. Alpaca only have bottom teeth at the front of their mouth and a hard gum at the top. Alpacas only nibble the top of the grass.
Alpacas do need a fresh supply of water on a daily basis. An alpaca will need to drink 5–8 percent of its body weight of water.
DO ALPACAS SPIT?
Yes, alpacas do spit. They normally only spit at each other and this is usually around food or when they have disagreements within the group and also to determine the hierarchy within the herd. Alpacas do not usually spit at people unless they are scared or are being hurt, most of the time it's just bad luck that you are caught in the crossfire. There are two types of spit.
1. the air spit - which is just a warning and will normally be just the contents of the mouth and a lot of air.
2. the guttural spit - this is normally a more aggressive warning and when you hear a very deep guttural sound, this is the time to move away very quickly as what comes out is not very nice and extremely smelly.
ARE ALPACAS CLEAN?
Alpacas are much cleaner than most livestock, they will often poo in a communal pile which makes cleaning up much easier. Their poo makes great fertiliser and can be used without the need for ageing or composting and does not smell that much.
DO ALPACAS MAKE A NOISE?
Alpacas are generally very quiet animals. They usually make a very pleasant humming sound, this is used as communication or as a complaint - this can increase in volume the longer it goes on. Occasionally, alpacas will send out an alarm call if they feel threatened. This is a very high pitch shrill and is normally a set of 4-5 short bursts. They can also make this noise when they are very excited, usually when they are running around or "pronking".
The male alpaca also makes a guttural, throaty sound called "orgling" normally when it is trying to serenade a female during mating.
HOW LONG ARE ALPACAS PREGNANT?
Female alpaca have a gestation period of around 11-11 1/2 months, this has been known to go on longer. Alpaca babies are called "cria" and will be born mostly in the morning or very early afternoon, this gives the cria enough time to stand, normally within around 30 minutes and suckling within about an hour and also to dry off before the temperature drop at night. A Cria is usually weaned at around six months.
DO ALPACAS NEED TO BE SHEARED?
Alpacas should be sheared once a year and usually just before the summer starts. This then gives enough time for the fleece to grow back thick enough for them to cope in winter and is short enough for the warm summer days.
More alpaca facts will be added regularly.
If you have any questions please contact Archie and he will do his very best to answer you quickly.