These exquisite creatures are the result of nearly 6,000 years of animal husbandry and domestication by the natives of South America. Since ancient times, native Andeans have worn garments fashioned from the lovely alpaca as their prime source of clothing. Alpacas are members of the Camelid family, which includes Bactrian and Dromedary camels of Asia and Africa, as well as the South American wild Vicuña, Guanaco and the domesticated Llama. The South American alpacas in Peru, Bolivia and Chile number in the millions.
Since the first importation into North America in 1983-84 these sweet, easily managed and hardy creatures immediately endeared themselves to North Americans. Current figures show the North American herd has grown to over 50,000. Because of the wonderfully soft, lightweight fleece, alpaca has become a luxury fiber in demand worldwide, with most of the South American fiber production going to Europe and Japan.
Alpacas tend to create one or two communal dung piles making it easier to clean up. This minimizes parasites and is easier to control disease thereby providing a healthier environment.
Alpacas have a gentle nature, which makes them ideal for people to raise who are not already familiar with livestock. Alpacas connect well with children and adults. Because of their gentle disposition and small stature, children often train and show them.
Alpacas produce an exquisite range of 22 natural colors from white to black in two fleece types shown below. See ABR’s fiber pages for more information.
Huacaya (wha-KAI-ah) is mostly hollow (for warmth), soft, dense, crimpy and gives a woolly appearance.
Suri (surrey) is a more solid, very silky and very straight fiber; these alpacas have lustrous pencil-like locks that cascade downward parallel to the body.
Want to learn more about alpacas? Visit our Quick Facts page.