Alpacas are an amazingly intelligent, gentle and endearing breed of animal which are a joy to experience, spend time and work with. A member of the Camelid family, there are two domesticated species, the alpaca and the llama, plus two wild species, the vicuna and guanaco. Alpacas originate from the high altiplano of South America.
Famed for their fleece – more refined than cashmere – which comes in a spectrum of 22 natural colours, this fibre is strong and hardwearing and can be used in a wide range of textiles including clothing, soft furnishings, beddings and carpets.
Alpacas are a herd animal and should be kept in a group with a minimum of three animals. Females deliver one baby per year, a cria, with a gestation of 11.5 months. Gelded males are called wethers and have a protective nature, often guarding lambs and chickens on a mixed-breed smallholding from foxes.
Provided shelter is available, alpacas can live outside year-round with a simple diet of grass and hay, with a supplemented feed for extra vitamins and minerals. Easily trained, these curious, sociable animals are a delight to enjoy.
For more information about looking after alpacas, visit The British Alpaca Society.