Alpaca, which is known scientifically as Vicugna pacos, is a South American species of camelid mammal. It is often mistaken for the llama. Alpacas are obviously smaller in size when compared to the llamas which are larger.
The two animals are closely linked, as such, they can crossbreed successfully.
The Alpacas and Llamas are thought to have been domesticated from guanaco and vicuña, their relatives in the wild. Alpaca has two breeds namely, Huacaya alpaca and Suri alpaca.
Alpacas, unlike llamas that are bred for the purpose of being used as working animals, are bred mainly for fiber. For instance, the alpaca fiber is used to make woven and knitted, just like the sheep’s wool.
Body language is the alpaca’s mode of communication, and the most common among this mode of communication is spitting which shows that they are distressed, or afraid.
The male’s alpacas are very hostile compared to the females.
- Scientific Name: Vicugna pacos
- Kingdom: Animalia
- Phylum: Chordata
- Class: Mammalia
- Order: Artiodactyla
- Family: Camelidae
- Genus: Vicugna
- Species: V. pacos
There are two breeds of alpaca based on their fibers not Scientific Classifications, they are Huacaya and Suri.
- Huacaya Alpacas: this type of alpaca breeds are the most widespread breeds of alpaca, taking about 90 percent of the population. It is believed that the Huacaya alpaca came into existence during post-colonial Peru. This was as a result of its fleece which is very thick, making it possible for them to survive in regions of higher altitudes.
- Suri Alpacas: a smaller part of the total population of alpaca of about 10 percent, is represented by the Suri alpaca. They are believed to have been common in pre-Columbian Peru, this was due to the fact that they could be kept at a lower altitude that didn’t require a thick fleece for survival.
Alpacas are very social domestic animals that live together as a group, comprising of their progeny, territorial alpha male, and females. By always making a sharp noisy inhalation that sound like a bray of high pitch, they send warning to the herd regarding intruders.
They usually attack through the use of their front feet and kick and spit. When alpacas are used as guard llamas for guarding sheep, their hostility towards foxes, coyotes, dogs, etc is usually exploited.
Most times, alpacas can be very calm, observant, intelligent and at the same time aggressive. When engaging in combat with other alpacas, male alpacas can be very energetic, and at the same time nervous when they sense any threat and are also cautious when preying.
Training: alpacas can be trained. As long as they are not patted on the neck or head to infuriate them, alpacas can be treated as pets. It is advisable that when herding alpacas, the handler should adopt a quite and gentle approach towards the herd to avoiding exposing himself and the Alpacas to danger.
Spitting: only few alpacas are capable of spitting. There are many reasons why alpacas spit, for instance the female alpaca spits when she doesn’t find a male alpaca interesting most especially if she is pregnant.
The female alpacas also spit during ovulation which is triggered by increase in the level of progesterone.
Hygiene: alpacas make use of a public dung heap where they don’t feed. This act reduces the transmission of internal parasites. Compared to the females, the males have much neater dung heaps which are stacked in a line. As soon as one female moves toward the dung heap and urinate, others in the herd follow suit. The excrement of alpacas is often used as garden fertilizer.
Sounds: Alpacas make varying sounds which are listed below.
- Snorting: alpacas snort when they sense the presence of an intruder.
- Screaming: alpacas are somewhat petty, and they tend to scream aloud when they are not properly handled. Their screams can be deafening. They also scream when they are under attack.
- Grumbling: grumbling in alpacas is usually done to sending warning to fellow alpacas.
- Humming: females alpacas usually hum together with their progeny after giving birth. Humming is also used as a sign of stress, or anxiety.
Reproduction: Female alpacas usually undergo induced ovulation. They usually take in after breeding once, though they sometimes have problem conceiving. Artificial insemination is very costly, and difficult technically, but it can be carried out. The males are usually ripe for mating between the age of 2-3 years for the first time. It is recommended that the young female be allowed to be bred until she is having attained maturity and has reached two-thirds of her mature weight.
There is always a negative impact, overbreeding of young female alpacas has prior to conception, as this results in uterine infections. It is usually difficult for alpacas to breed in the winter, but they can breed at any time of the year.
Habitat and Lifestyle
Most parts of South America house the Alpacas, and they are known to live inclement conditions, in the mountains with high altitudes. Since they are not restricted to a particular type of environment, it makes it easy for them to be cared for.
Alpacas mainly feed on hay, silage, and pasture grass, but some sometimes feed on food that is rich in proteins. They can also feed on natural unfertilized grass. For alpacas to produce body heat and warmth during winter, they need more supplements.