What are Alpacas and where do they come from anyway? Fossil records of alpaca-like animals, now extinct, have been recorded in North America.
But alpacas as we know them are indigenous to Peru, Bolivia and Chile. Alpacas are one of four types of South American camelids. They are about half the size of a Llama, standing about 36” at the withers, and are a modified ruminid (or cud chewing animal). There are two types or breeds of alpacas. Huacayas have a crimpy fleece that stands out from their  

bodies more like a sheep and have sometimes been referred to as teddy bear alpacas. Suris have a leaner look with their fleece hanging in pencil locks (or dreadlocks) along their bodies lying closer to their skin. Alpacas are gentle and curious, but easily spooked. They are happier in numbers, run in herds and need the companionship of other alpacas.
  The Quechas and Aymaras have been credited with the domestication of alpacas, probably for thousands of years. In the early 1400’s the Incan Empire formed bringing advancement of fiber arts and a religious
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significance to their alpacas. Only those specially designated were allowed to spin and weave alpaca fiber, and alpaca clothing was reserved for royalty. Alpaca herds were a significant form of wealth.


The Spanish Conquistadores of the early 1500’s were more interested in silver and gold than the traditional wealth of the natives, their alpacas. The European livestock crowded scarce pasturelands and brought in diseases that alpacas had no immunities to. The Conquistadores slaughtered millions of alpacas (as much as 90% of the world herd) to gain control over the Incas causing the deaths of about 80% of the native population due to starvation and disease. The stronger of the remaining natives fled with the remnants of their beloved alpaca herds to the Altiplano in the high mountain regions of the Andes mountains where the harsh conditions of the high altitude deserts conditioned the alpacas to be very hardy survivors.

In the mid 1800’s, Englishman, Sir Titus Salt discovered a bundle of alpaca fiber in a shipment of imported sheep’s wool. He modified his mill for production of the finer fiber and provided the British royal family with luxurious garments of  
alpaca. Soon alpacawas in high demand by European aristocracy and is still known as one of the most exquisite fibers in existence.