A Brief History of Alpacas
Alpacas have coexisted with humankind for thousands of years. The Incan civilization
of the Andes Mountains in Peru elevated the alpaca to a central place in their
society. The imperial Incas clothed themselves in garments made from alpaca
and many of their religious ceremonies involved the animal. Museums throughout
the Americas display textiles made from alpaca fiber.
The Spanish conquistadors failed to see the value of alpaca fiber, preferring
the merino sheep of their native Spain. For a time, alpaca fiber was a well-kept
secret. Beginning in the mid 1800's, alpaca was rediscovered by Sir Titus Salt
of London, England.
The newly industrialized English textile industry was at its zenith when Sir
Titus began studying the unique properties of alpaca fleece. He discovered,
for instance, that alpaca fiber was stronger than sheep's wool and that its
strength did not diminish with fineness of staple. The alpaca textiles he fashioned
from the raw fleece were soft, lustrous, and they soon began making their mark
across Europe. Today, the center of the alpaca textile industry is in Arequipa,
Peru; yarn and other products made from alpaca are sold primarily in either
Japan or Europe.
Outside of their native South America, the number of alpacas found in other
countries is extremely limited. In fact, 99 percent of the world's approximately
three million alpacas are found in Peru, Bolivia, and Chile.
ALPACAS - The Earth-Friendly Farm
Alpacas have been domesticated for more than 5,000 years. They are one of Mother
Nature's favorite farm animals. They are sensitive to their environment in every
respect. The following physical attributes allow alpacas to maintain their harmony
with our Mother Earth.
- The alpaca's feet are padded and leave even the most delicate terrain undamaged
as it browses on native grasses.
- The alpaca is a modified ruminant with a three compartment stomach. It converts
grass and hay to energy very efficiently, eating less than other farm animals.
- Its camelid ancestry allows the alpaca to thrive without consuming very
much water, although an abundant, fresh water supply is necessary.
- The alpaca does not usually eat or destroy trees, preferring tender grasses
which it does not pull up by the roots.
- South American Indians use alpaca dung for fuel and gardeners find the alpaca's
rich fertilizer perfect for growing fruits and vegetables.
- A herd of alpacas consolidates its feces in one or two spots in the pasture,
thereby controlling the spread of parasites, and making it easy to collect
and compost for fertilizer.
- An alpaca produces enough fleece each year to create several soft, warm
sweaters for its owner's comfort. This is the alpaca's way of contributing
to community energy conservation efforts.
The Alpaca Advantage
- Alpacas are safe; they don't bite or butt. Even if they did, without incisors,
horns, hoofs or claws, little harm can be done.
- Alpacas are small and easy to handle.
- Alpacas are useful: they produce fine and valuable fleece as well as make
- Alpacas are intelligent, which makes them pleasant to be around and easy
- Alpacas are beautiful, come in 22 colors, and are clean and pleasant to
- Alpacas do not require special shelter or care. -Alpacas are considered
disease-resistant animals, which lowers insurance and veterinarian costs.
- Alpacas are adaptable to varied habitat, successfully being raised from
Australia to Alaska and from 15,000 feet to sea level.
- Alpacas are rare outside of South America and cannot be mass produced.
- Alpacas require minimal fencing.
- Alpacas can be pastured at 5-10 per acre.
- Alpacas are easy to ship, which allow them to be traded across the country
or around the world.
- Alpacas have a relatively long and trouble-free reproductive life span.
- Alpacas can be insured against loss.