History of Alpacas
The domistication of alpacas and llamas had already begun by 3000 BC. During the llama was the South American civilizations, especially as a pack animal, the alpaca was bred for its wool. For an Inca an alpaca coat was a status symbol. Llarge herds were held until the conquest of Peru by the Spaniards. The conquerors brought sheeps to South America and showed no interest in the native breeds. As a result, the alpaca became an animal of the poor, indigenous population, which was almost extinct after some time.
With the independence of the South American countries, the value of the alpacas was rediscovered. The breed was resumed and the wool exported all over the world. Today there are about 3.5 million alpacas, mainly in southern Peru, western Bolivia and Chile.
More and more often, you can also discover alpacas on the grazing lands of Europe.
Alpacas belong to the family of the South American camelids. They are intelligent, curious and loving animals that communicate with bright humming sounds. Their big, blag eyes, friendly character and charming humming makes them so adorable. As all camelids, alpacas are social animals and live in herds. Today, the largest population of alpacas can be found on the high plains of the peruvian andes.
The animals provide an income for thousands of families in the andes, as they produce
precious fibres in more than twenty different natural tones. Due to their good character,
alpacas are also used in the therapy of addicted and disabled humans.
A great example is the foundation of Maria Ebene.
Types of Alpacas
There are different types of new world camelids
The robust Huacaya with dense and fluffy fibre. The slim Suri with long and smooth braids.
The precious Vikuña, that has the finest fibres of the planet. The rare Guanaco, that is particularly
under protectionand the bigger Lama, that is often used as a packing animal.
The Vicunja (also Vicuña) is the most graceful and scarce of the four South American camelids. Still wild, it lives in the High Andes at 4000 meters above sea level. Peru has a population of some 160’000 Vicuñas, but smaller numbers of Vicuñas can also be found in Northern Chile, Bolivia and Argentina. The wild animals are shorn alive during a respectful ceremony which is steeped in legend and ancestral tradition. The Vicuña fiber is, at 12 micron, the finest animal fiber in the world. In the era of the Incas, clothing made of Vicuña fibers was reserved for the noble class. In the 1960s, however, the Vicuña was on the brink of extinction. Then, under the authority of CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) a rescue program was carried out to save this graceful species. Since the 1990s the world’s most luxurious fiber has fortunately returned in very limited quantities.
The Huacaya is the most prevalent species. It counts up to 90% of the whole alpaca population. Its dense and fluffy differs clearly from the Suri alpaca with its silky and smooth hair.
Breeders love the Huacaya, as is has a friendly character and a fibre that can be used for almost every knitted product. That makes the Huacaya an allrounder in every way.
The Suri is a bit smaller and slimmer than the Huacaya. The smooth fibre of the Suri alpaca grows in long braids parallel to the body. Its elegant style, the noble glamour and the friendly appearance of the Suri are characteristic. The Suri fibre is suitable for the production of coats. Usually, the fibre is mixed with other alpaca fibres, as due to its smooth structure it is almost impossible to proceed it pure.
Guanakos are the second largest of the South American camelids. Some 500’000 Guanacos live free in the wilderness of the High Andes of Peru, Argentina and Chile and in Patagonia. Today Guanacos are unfortunately threatened of extinction and have been put on the watch list of conservation organizations. Products made from Guanaco fibers can only be purchased with a CITES certificate (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora). This certificate guarantees that the animals are released to freedom after being sheared.
The Lama (or Llama), the largest of the South American camelids, can be found in the whole Andean region. During the era of the Incas, these animals played an extremely important role in the life of the Andean people, as they were the most common medium of transportation and their meat was demanded. In the textile industry, the Lama- fleece is used much more often than the alpaca fleece. The processed fibres are, for example, used for coats and blankies.
Facts & figures
3 to 6 Kg per animal/year, processable: 1 to 3 Kg
75 to 100 cm
Mare: ca. 55 kg, Stallion: 60-80 kg
3.5 Million alpacas in Peru (= 80% of worldwide population)
approx. 12‘000 – 15‘000 animals
approx. 3‘000 – 5‘000 animals
approx. 2‘000 animals
once a year
1–2 Kg of grass per day