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Alpaca 101: What are alpacas and why do people keep them?


What is an Alpaca?

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 extremely friendly and docile animals, standing at an average height of just 3ft.

Originating from the mountain ranges in southern America, alpacas are descendants of the vicuñas. They belong to the ‘Camelid’ family, alongside camels, guanacos and llamas. Alpacas are very sociable animals – they have been completely domesticated since their beginnings (around 6000 years ago), so you will not find alpacas in the wild. Alpacas are accustomed to being around people and they thrive in groups.

Alpacas vs Llamas

Alpacas are 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.

Why Keep Alpacas?

Keeping alpacas is a wonderful and rewarding experience. Their calm and inquisitive nature makes them great companions to spend your time with. Just like humans, alpacas have a variety of personalities – whether cheeky, bold or loving, alpacas can help to reduce stress and bring happiness into your life. Alpacas are a pleasure to watch, especially at dusk when they play; leaping and prancing across the fields!

Here at Fostings, we decided to keep alpacas as Alice has been fascinated by llamas and alpacas since her school years. She worked with a small group of alpacas over several years, and she discovered first-hand how humans could build strong relationships with these caring creatures. We wished to dedicate more time to individual animals rather than traditional farming, and so looked to alpacas.


If you are interested in finding out more about these gentle animals, or if you are considering keeping your own alpacas, please get in touch with us here at Fostings Alpacas. You can also stay with our wonderful herd at our beautifully-crafted glamping pod for two – click here to find out more.

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