The alpacas natural habitat is the Altiplano in the Andes Mountains. If you're lucky enough to take a Peru vacation and tour the countryside, you might see large herds of alpacas for they have existed there for thousands of years.

The camelid family of South America has four species. The Llama, the guanaco, the alpaca, and the vicuna. Alpacas are linked to the vicuna more than the llama because they have similar dentition and are similar in size.

Alpacas have coexisted with humankind for thousands of years. The Incan civilization of the Andes Mountains in Peru elevated the alpaca to a central place in their society. The imperial Incas clothed themselves in garments made from alpaca and many of their religious ceremonies involved the animal. Museums throughout the Americas display textiles made from alpaca fiber.

The Spanish conquistadors failed to see the value of alpaca fiber, preferring the merino sheep of their native Spain. For a time, alpaca fiber was a well-kept secret. Some of the native people hid a few alpacas on the remote, harsh altiplano. These few animals survived otherwise this would be the end of the history of alpacas.

In the middle 1800's, Sir Titus Salt of Saltaire, England rediscovered alpaca. The newly industrialized English textile industry was at its zenith when Sir Titus began studying the unique properties of alpaca fleece. He discovered, for instance, that alpaca fiber was stronger than sheep's wool and that its strength did not diminish with fineness of staple. The alpaca textiles he fashioned from the raw fleece were soft, lustrous, and they soon began making their mark across Europe. Today, the center of the alpaca textile industry is in Arequipa, Peru; yarn and other products made from alpaca are sold primarily in Japan and Europe.

From 1969 to early 1970's, drought and the killing of alpacas by terrorists destroyed the herds by 50%.To save the alpaca,the governments of Peru, Chili, and Bolivia allowed alpacas to be exported to America and other countries.

Alpacas came to the U.S. in 1984. The U.S. has a thriving, fledgling alpaca industry with around 200,000 alpacas on 2000 large and small alpaca farms.




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A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE ALPACA

   
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Debbie & Mark Emery
Glen Ellen, California
brookfarmalpacas@mac.com
Tel & Fax:  707.996.0350
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