Ancient camelids originated on the central plains of North America around 35 million years ago; approximately 3 million years ago a wild form of camelid, the Hemiauchenia, migrated across the isthmus of Panama into South America and resided in the Andean highlands.
This ancestral form and others became extinct about 12,000 years ago, leaving only the wild guanaco (Lama) and vicuna (Vicugna) surviving in the Americas. The domesticated forms are called the Llama and Alpaca.
The five camelid cousins are the Alpaca, Vicuna, Llama, Guanaco and Camel.
Alpaca Quick Facts
- Alpacas were first imported from Chile to the United States in 1984 for breeding purposes; prior to that time the alpacas could only be found in zoos.
- There are two types of alpacas, Huacaya (pronounced wah-ki-yah) and Suri (pronounced sur-rey). Huacayas produce crimpy fiber while Suris produce a lock style fiber.
Fiber comes in 22 natural colors (used for judging/textile purposes) ranging from pure white to true black and anything you can imagine in between.
- Alpacas are usually shorn once a year to harvest their fantastic fleece.
Gestation period is approximately eleven months, producing a single offspring referred to as a cria, multiple births are very rare.
- Are induced ovulators; they breed on contact instead of any particular season or time of the year.
- Compared to other types of livestock, alpacas are relatively easy to maintain.
- Unlike sheep, alpaca fiber is considered hypo-allergenic because it does not contain lanolin.
- Alpacas stand about 36 inches at the withers and weigh between 100 to 200 pounds.
- One alpaca, no way . . . alpacas have very strong herding instincts and need other alpacas for companionship.
- Have the ability to "spit"; normally used to defend territory, compete for food, distract a predator or establishing rank in the herd.
- Life span for an alpaca may range from 15 to 25 years of age.
Member of the camelid (camel) family.
For additional information please visit ARI's Alpaca Academy.
Llamas are one of the oldest domesticated camelids in the world. They are about 48" at the withers and weigh between 350 to 400 pounds.
We use llamas as livestock guardians due to their more aggressive nature towards perceived threats and presence of size.
Guard llamas are used to protect many farm animals such as goats, sheep, and calves from dogs, coyotes and other predators.
Updated April 20, 2013