The Alpaca (Vicugna pacos) is a domesticated species of the South American camelid. It resembles a small llama. Alpacas are kept in herds and graze on the level heights of the: Andes of Ecuador, southern Peru, northern Bolivia and northern Chile - at an altitude of 3500 to 5000 metres above sea level.
Alpacas are important animals for the Andes communities as they provide income and fibre for warm clothing.
Alpacas are considerably smaller than llamas and are not used as beasts of burden but are valued for their fibre. Alpacas and llamas differ in that alpacas have straight ears and llamas have banana-shaped ears. Aside from these differences, llamas are on average are 30-50cm taller and proportionally bigger than alpacas.
Alpaca hair is extremely soft and the filaments are 3 times stronger and have an insulating capacity 7 times that of ordinary lambs wool.
Alpaca has long been considered amongst the finest fibres. Indeed, the Incas called it “the fibre of the gods”.
The alpaca hair, (most people say alpaca wool, but it is hair) creates very warm and cosy garments by spinning and knitting. The delicate cloud of filaments make it almost silky and very soft to touch.