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alpacasAlpaca, a member of the scientific family Camelid (think camels!), is related to the guanaco, the wild vicuna, and of course the very familiar llama. The main difference between their llama cousins is that Alpacas are raised for their wonderful fiber.

A small and friendly creature, Alpacas weigh from about 120-175 pounds. They feed mostly by grazing in pastures for hay and grass and drinking fresh water. They rarely eat tree leaves -- which makes them quite environmentally friendly! Further, their camelid evolution has given Alpacas the ability to survive on very little water.

Alpacas have padded feet. They are ruminants like cows and have three stomachs. The hay and grass consumed by alpacas is put to very efficient use; very little gets wasted and nearly all is converted to energy during digestion.

It would take ten alpacas to eat as much a single, average cow. Alpaca is the only animal in the world that produces more than 20 natural shades from off white, cream to brown, gray, and black. These animals, natives to the Andes mountains in Peru, are 80% of the total population of Alpacas in the world.

alpaquiasThe fleece shorn from Alpaca is HAIR, not wool. Especially a subspecies called Suri, has a silky shine and much more tensile strength than Llama or sheeps wool. Alpaca hair also has a much higher specific weight than sheeps wool.

Alpaca fiber incorporates the finest features of the world's natural fibers. It is as soft as cashmere as well as stronger and three times warmer than wool.

The fiber is very strong and extremely resilient. An evolution spent in freezing temperatures at high altitudes has given alpacas more thermal capacity in its fiber than nearly any other animal. The alpaca fiber contains microscopic air pockets which give it powerful insulating value -- which makes it ideal for human clothing. It is also very lightweight, another plus in the clothing department.

Alpaca fiber has a snob value like Mohair or Angora. The total production does not exceed 2,500 tons. per year. The Alpacas are normally shorn every 2 years when the staple is about 4 inches (10 cm) long. The first clip is called "baby Alpaca" and commands high prices. The older the animal, the coarser will be its hair.

The international market for alpaca fiber officially recognizes 22 different natural alpaca colors. The coloration runs through quite a vast number of shades! There is an entire range of browns as well as pure white to pure black, and many more. Regardless of available natural colors, alpaca fiber can be dyed to any color -- without losing it's beautiful natural luster.

alpaquitasLong ago, the Incan kings recognized the Alpaca's unique qualities and they reserved the Alpaca's fabric for the exclusive use of their royal court. Petroglyphs found in Peru, dating back over four thousand years, depicts shepherds tending to herds of alpacas.

By intelligent, we mean alpacas are very well-developed social animals. The communicate with one another using a gentle humming sound, as well as combining that with body positioning.

By friendly, we mean they are one of the calmest, easiest-to-get-along-with creatures on the planet. Alpacas don't spit like camels, they don't bite like llamas, they don't kick like cows, they don't charge like many herd animals such as bulls, and they certainly don't stampede. Also, an alpaca herd knows how to designate a spot to be the bathroom; they generally drop their feces in a very few locations in their pasture, which keeps the rest of the field clean and free of disease and parasites -- not to mention making it a lot easier for alpaca herders to clean up the waste, which makes great composted fertilizer.