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What are alpacas?

Alpacas are herbivorous, fleeced animals that come in a wide variety of colours – from snowy white through to fawn and chocolate browns, to ash greys and midnight blacks. Alpacas are very friendly and docile animals, standing at an average height of just 3ft. As social animals, they enjoy being part of a herd. 

Part of the Camelid family, alpacas are related to camels, vicuñas, guanacos and llamas. Often confused with llamas, which are descendants of the guanacos. You can differentiate the two between their size and fleeces: alpacas are smaller and are bred for their fibre (fleece) quality, whereas llamas are bigger and shaggier, and were bred for carrying goods across the mountains. Another key difference is their ears: llamas have banana-shaped ears, whereas alpacas have much straighter ears. Alpacas come in two different breeds: Huacayas (the most popular breed) and Suri (these have a much longer, curly fleece).

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Image by Alejandra Ezquerro
Alpaca Origins

Originating from the mountain ranges in southern America, alpacas are very used to scaling heights and being exposed to extreme weather conditions, making them hardy animals who enjoy being outdoors. That being said, a field shelter serves to protect them from extreme rain and sun. They have been completely domesticated since their beginnings (around 6000 years ago), so you will not find alpacas in the wild!