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Facts about Alpacas for Kids

An alpaca is a domesticated species of South American camelid.Alpacas are considerably smaller than llamas, and unlike llamas, they were not bred to be beasts of burden, but were bred specifically for their fiber. Alpaca fiber is used for making knitted and woven items, similar to wool. The fiber comes in more than 52 natural colors as classified in Peru, 12 as classified in Australia and 16 as classified in the United States.

  • In the textile industry, “alpaca” primarily refers to the hair of Peruvian alpacas, but more broadly it refers to a style of fabric originally made from alpaca hair, but now often made from similar fibers, such as mohair, Icelandic sheep wool, or even high-quality English wool.
  • The alpaca is larger than the vicuña, but smaller than the other camelid species.
  • Of the various camelid species, the alpaca and vicuña are the most valuable fiber-bearing animals: the alpaca because of the quality and quantity of its fiber, and the vicuña because of the softness, fineness and quality of its coat.
  • Alpacas are social herd animals that live in family groups consisting of a territorial alpha male, females and their young.
  • “Spit” is somewhat euphemistic; occasionally the projectile contains only air and a little saliva, although alpacas commonly bring up acidic stomach contents and project it onto their chosen targets.
  • One female approaches the dung pile and begins to urinate and/or defecate, and the rest of the herd often follows.
  • It is not advisable to allow a young female to be bred until she is mature, as over-breeding a young female, before conception is possible, is a common cause of uterine infections.
  • Most alpaca ranchers rotate their feeding grounds so the grass can regrow and fecal parasites may die before reusing the area.
  • Alpacas can eat natural unfertilized grass; however, ranchers can also supplement grass with low-protein grass hay.
  • Alpacas will chew their food in a figure eight motion, swallow the food, and then pass it into one of the stomach’s chambers.
  • Many plants are poisonous to the alpaca, including the bracken fern, fireweed, oleander, and some azaleas.
  • In the 18th and 19th centuries, the four South American lamoid species were assigned scientific names.
  • Classification was complicated by the fact that all four species of South American camelid can interbreed and produce fertile offspring.
  • The price for American alpacas can range from US$100 for a castrated male to US$500,000 for the highest of champions in the world, depending on breeding history, sex, and color.