Alpaca (Lama pacos)


Class: Mammalia
Order: Artiodactyla
Family:    Camelidae
Size:    Height 3 to 3.5 feet (0.9 to 1 m) 
Weight: 100 to 175 pounds (45 to 79 kg)
Diet: Grass
Distribution: Southern Peru, Western Bolivia, Northern Chile and Argentina
Young:  1, usually every other year
Animal Predators:  Not known
IUCN Status: No special status
Terms: Young: Crias
Lifespan:  15 to 25 years



·       Alpacas are related to llamas, guanacos, camels and vicuñas.

·       Alpacas are non-aggressive and tend to move away when they feel threatened.

·       Alpacas occasionally spit at each other when annoyed.

·       Unlike llamas, alpacas cannot carry heavy loads.

·       Alpacas walk on footpads that enable them to travel nimbly over rocky ground.



Alpacas are similar to llamas, but are much smaller and have softer fur. There are two types of alpacas, producing different types of wool. Huacaya (pronounced wuh-kai-ah) alpacas have woolly coats, producing dense, crimped wool. Most domestic alpacas are huacayas. Suri (pronounced sir-ee) alpacas have silky dreadlocks/ringlets and are very rare. The wool comes in several different colours, including brown, black, white, grey and yellow. Alpaca wool is stronger, straighter and silkier than the wool of a sheep, and although alpaca meat is edible, they are rarely killed for food because they are more valuable for their annual output of wool.



Alpacas live in the South American Andes, from southern Peru to northern Chile, western Bolivia and Argentina. The flocks live on high, grassy plateaus 13,000 to 16,000 feet (4,000 to 4,800 metres) above sea level. Many alpacas have been domesticated and live on farms, where they are kept mainly for their wool and for breeding purposes. In the wild, alpacas live in the mountains but are driven down to the villages every spring by Native South Americans where their wool is sheared and they are released. 


Feeding Habits

Like camels and llamas, alpacas have divided upper lips. They graze in small groups and can survive on very little food. Like cows, they chew their cud, which means regurgitating food recently eaten, then chewing it and swallowing it again. This extracts more nutrition from the food and is one reason why alpacas can survive on little food.



Alpacas have a gestation period of 11 months and give birth to one offspring, weighing between 15 to 19 pounds (6.8 to 8.6 kg). Within an hour, the baby alpaca (known as a cria) can stand and nurse. The cria nurses for up to six months. Alpaca mothers are protective of their crias.



Alpacas have friendly and pleasant dispositions. They tend to be very clean and quite curious. When content or nervous, they make gentle humming sounds.



Spanish conquistadors arrived in the New World in the 16th century and began to round up and kill the native alpacas, preferring the sheep they’d brought from their native Spain. Additionally, the Spanish knew that the Incas needed the alpacas for clothing and food, so by killing them they were controlling their enemy. Native South Americans escaped into the Andes Mountains, taking their prized alpacas with them, saving them from extinction. In the mid-1800s, Sir Titus Salt of Britain “discovered” the wool of the alpaca and shipped the fleece home to London, where it became very popular in fine European textiles. Today, alpaca numbers are growing because there is an increasing interest in farming them. 




Alpaca Wildlife Fact File, IM Pub, US