feet at the shoulder
120 to 155 pounds
Andes Mountains of southern Peru, northern Bolivia, Ecuador, and northern Chile; domesticated alpacas are distributed worldwide
Status in the Wild
There are no known wild alpaca populations.
Elevations between 11,500 and 16,000 feet; domesticated animals live at lower elevations as well
Alpacas have a relatively small head with big, pointed ears and large eyes. Their thick wool coat can be one or multiple colors ranging from white to black and brown. They are similar in appearance to llamas, although they are typically much smaller. They have excellent eyesight and often are able to sense an approaching predator long before it is close enough to be a threat. Like other hoofed animals, alpacas are able to swivel their ears in the direction of a sound to help them pinpoint where it is coming from.
Alpacas are social herd animals and communicate a wide range of information through their posture. They also use a broad range of vocalizations.
Alpacas are the smallest of the camelids, which include camels, llamas, guanacos, and vicunas.
They have a large heart and lungs that keep their body well supplied with oxygen in the thin air of their natural habitat.
An environmentally smart choice is to purchase or make clothing from the wool of alpacas or llamas. Their fibers do not require manufacturing or chemical treatments, making them safe for the environment.
Unlike wool from sheep, wool from alpacas and llamas contains no lanolin, making it hypoallergenic and safe for bare skin. If it rains or snows, alpaca outerwear is water-resistant and keeps you warm and dry by wicking moisture away from the skin. Clothes made from llama and alpaca wool are soft and do not “pill,” looking new and staying comfortable for a long time.
Before the Spanish conquest in the 1500s, alpacas and llamas were a big part of South America’s Inca culture, similar to how bison served many purposes for North American Plains Indians.
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