Alpacas are kept as pets and cattle throughout the world. They are especially prized for their fleece, which is considered to make very high-quality clothing. Although they have been around for thousands of years, it is only recently that the alpaca has become such a popular livestock animal and there are now believed to be more than 50,000 alpacas in the USA.

Read on for 20 interesting facts about this incredible animal.


The 20 Fascinating Alpaca Facts

1. They Are An Ancient Animal

Llamas and alpacas were bred and domesticated more than 6,000 years ago by the Incan people, who raised them for their fleece. Early alpacas lived in the Andes mountains and it was only thousands of years later that they were brought to lower elevations for further breeding.

two alpacas
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2. Alpacas Are Modified Ruminants

Ruminants are a specific group of animals that ferment food in a separate stomach before digesting it. The ruminant family includes cattle, sheep, deer, and giraffes. However, while a true ruminant has four sections of the stomach, the alpaca only has three, which has led to them being classified as modified ruminants.

3. There Are No Wild Alpacas

Alpacas were domesticated by breeding wild vicuna. The vicuna is considered as being vulnerable to extinction, although their numbers have increased from 6,000 in 1960 to approximately 125,000 today. However, this means that there are no wild alpacas because these are domesticated animals.

4. Although Related, They Are Different Animals To Llamas

Some people confuse alpacas and llamas, although their increased prevalence means that we are more aware of the major differences now than ever before. However, while the two animals are closely related, they are very different in a lot of ways. Alpacas have shorter ears and are around half the size of llamas, and while llamas are usually bred as pack animals, the alpaca is bred almost solely for its fleece.

Alpaca lying in grass
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5. Llamas And Alpacas Can Breed And Produce Huarizo

Because they are so closely related, llamas and alpacas can breed and they produce an animal that is called huarizo. Huarizo are said to have the head of a llama and the body of an alpaca.

6. They Are Also Related To Camels

Llamas and alpacas both belong to the Camelidae family, or the camel family. The alpaca is the smallest member of this family.

7. They Can Make Great Pets

Alpacas are gentle and intelligent. They have cute faces and, when handled properly and regularly, they can be very affectionate animals. This has made them popular as pets, as well as livestock for farming.

Alpacas in grass
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8. They Give Birth At Lunchtime

In most cases, alpacas give birth between the hours of 10 am and 2 pm. This is the warmest time of day, which would have been important high up in the Andes mountain, and is early enough that the cria is born, dried, and had its first feed before the freezing nighttime would have settled in.

9. They Have A Single Baby, Called A Cria

Alpacas have a gestation period of about 11 months and typically give birth once a year. They have a single baby, which is called a cria. Twins are possible but they only occur naturally one in every 10,000 births.

baby alpaca
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10. Alpacas Are Sociable Herd Animals

As a herd animal, an alpaca benefits from being around others of its own kind, although if they do not have other alpacas in their herd, they will mix and socialize with animals including sheep and llamas. Their sociable herding status has seen them used as herd protectors for sheep and smaller herd animals.

11. They Rarely Spit At Humans

Although they will spit at one another to determine leadership and social hierarchy, alpacas rarely spit at humans unless they feel threatened or have been mistreated.

alpaca with mouth open
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12. They Make A Series Of Noises Including Orgling

As well as spitting, this ruminant has a series of noises they use to communicate with one another. A content alpaca hums quietly to itself, while a distressed or scared one may shriek. Male alpacas make a noise called orgling when attempting to attract a mate, and they continue this noise during mating.

13. They Are Bred Primarily For Their Fleece

There are only two types of alpaca: the huacaya and the suri. It is the former, the huacaya, that is most often bred for its fleece because it is fluffier and has greater benefits when turned into clothing.

alpaca fleece
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14. Alpaca Fleece Is The Second Strongest Animal Fiber

Even though alpacas only have one offspring a year and they are not raised for their milk or meat, they are becoming increasingly popular and this is because of the quality of their fleece. They are said to have the second strongest animal fiber behind mohair.

15. They Come In More Than 20 Colors

At first glance, you would be forgiven for thinking that all alpacas are brown or cream, but there are 22 different shades of this incredible creature including a silver-grey, white, and true black.

three alpacas
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16. Their Meat is Considered A Luxury In Peru

Although they are bigger than sheep, alpacas only yield a small amount of meat. Thousands of years ago, their meat was reserved for celebrations and special occasions and was usually only given to revered elders. Today, it is still considered something of a delicacy in Peru but is rarely eaten in any other country.

17. They Have No Front Teeth At The Top Of Their Mouths

Like a lot of livestock that graze on grass, the alpaca has teeth at the bottom front of the mouth but only what is called a dental pad at the top. They can still grind grass and hay but are unable to chew anything more substantial.

side view of an alpaca
Image Credit: Couleur, Pixabay

18. They Poop In One Spot

Alpacas can be extremely clean animals because a herd of them will choose a single spot or area to poop and they will all go in the same area. This reduces flies and helps all of the animals keep clean.

19. Females Wee Together

Another toilet fact about alpacas is that the females will often wee at the same time. One will start to wee in a chosen spot and others will join in or wait their turn.

20. They Are Intelligent

Are Alpacas smart? Well, you can train them using a clicker and many of the same techniques that you would use to train a dog, so it could be argued that they are as intelligent as mans’ best friend.

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Alpacas are raised for their fleece or as pets. They are intelligent, sociable, and clean animals that can be affectionate with their humans and have some interesting quirks that make them a great addition to your land. Above, we have listed 20 interesting facts about this modified ruminant that we hope you find as interesting as we do.

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