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The Alpaca (Vicugna Pacos) is a species of South American camelid, with both types originating from Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Chile. The two types of alpacas are Huacaya (pronounced wah-key-ah), and Suri (pronounced sur-ee). Huacayas have a rounded, bulky appearance when they are full fleece and have a signature "Teddy bear" look. Their fiber grows perpendicular to the body and is crimpy, incredibly soft, and dense. Suri fiber lies parallel to the body in long-hanging, well-defined locks that grow towards the ground. Suri locks are extremely lustrous and silky to the touch. Over 90% of the alpacas found in the US are Huacaya.


While Peru classes 52 natural colors of alpaca fiber, the Alpaca Owners Association, Inc. (AOA) recognizes 16: white, beige, light/medium/dark fawn, light/medium/dark brown, bay black, true black, light/medium/dark silver grey, and light/medium/dark rose grey. Patterns found on alpacas are limitless! While not considered a color classification by the AOA, alpacas can also be classed as modern and classic greys, indefinite light, indefinite dark, pattern, pinto, fancy, and appaloosa; these labels are for animals that are participating in an AOA competition show and display one or more easily visible, distinct colors.


Alpaca fiber is used to create high-end, luxurious garments and yarn, and can be felted for crafting and handwork. Because of its anatomy, alpaca fiber is softer than wool, and also lacks lanolin (wool wax or wool grease) that is found in sheep's wool; this makes it hypoallergenic with an extremely low "prickle" feel. The fiber is three times warmer than sheep's wool, naturally anti-microbial, repels water, and stays warm even when wet. Alpaca is flame resistant and meets the US Consumer Product Safety Commission's Standard as a Class 1 fiber for the use in clothing and furnishings.

An adult huacaya alpaca's shorn fleece typically weighs 6-10lbs and has three basic sections: the prime blanket (fiber from the back or "barrel" of the animal), seconds (fiber from the neck and upper thighs) and thirds (fiber from the legs, tail, and belly). 

Each section of the fleece has a purpose. The prime blanket is the highest quality and finest fiber, and is used for yarn or creating fabric. Seconds can be spun into courser yarn, which is typically used for items not worn on the skin (e.g., rugs, woven baskets, etc.). 

Thirds can be used for insulation, mulch in flower beds, or nesting material for birds. Seconds and thirds will also felt more easily for crafting projects. The use of alpaca fiber is only limited by your imagination!


Alpacas live on average 18-20 years but can reach into their mid-20s. Females, called hembras, typically weigh between 120-175lbs, where males, called machos, typically weigh between 140-200lbs on average. Overall they are smaller in stature than their camelid counterpart llamas and are not beasts of burden.

Unlike hoofed horses, alpacas are two-toed ungulates and use the tips of their toes to sustain the bulk of their body weight when in motion. Unlike a true ruminant such as a cow, sheep, or goat (an animal with multiple stomachs that derives its nutrition from regurgitating and chewing partially digested food), alpacas are quasi-ruminants. Also called modified ruminants, alpacas have three-phase digestion (the rumen, reticulum, and one true stomach, the abomasum) instead of four stomachs. While alpacas have both top and bottom rear teeth, they have only bottom front teeth; the top is a hard dental plate that ideally lines up perfectly with those bottom front teeth. Alpacas use their bottom teeth and dental plate to collect food and move it to the rear of the mouth for mashing and grinding, using a figure-eight motion to chew. 

When Alpacas reach maturity around 24 months old, males (and some females) grow canine teeth (also called "fighting teeth") located between the incisors (bottom front teeth) and the molars (back teeth); they are very sharp and need to be blunted by a professional. This is usually done during the shearing season by a shearer trained to grind the teeth down. Alpacas teeth do not need to be brushed or otherwise maintained as long as the animal's bite is well-lined up, and their mouth is healthy.


Both males and females reach sexual maturity around two years of age. A female must be at minimum 18 months old and 2/3 of her overall body weight to safely carry and deliver pregnancy and can carry a pregnancy into their later teen years if healthy and in good condition. Females are induced ovulators, meaning that they require the act of breeding to ovulate an egg. Gestation for a female is typically between 335-355 days, though some can deliver sooner, or as late as up to 400 days. Crias (baby alpacas) are usually born without assistance and are able to stand and nurse shortly after delivery. Alpacas typically deliver only a single cria; twin pregnancies are incredibly rare.


Alpacas do chew their cud (partially digested food returned from the reticulum up through the rumen to the mouth for additional chewing), and they can and will spit. Alpacas typically spit at one another to assert dominance, to indicate that they are "closed" to a male attempting to breed (a pregnant or "closed" female will spit and kick at a male attempting to breed with them), to fight over food, or to defend their cria. Alpacas will not usually intentionally spit at people unless they feel threatened, though we do get in their way when they're spitting for other reasons!