Alpaca

About alpacas

Alpaca
The alpaca (lama pacos) is a member of the South American camel family, which is closely related to the llama, the guanaco, and the vicuña. They produce alpaca fiber, the unique properties of which mean it is considered one of the finest and softest in the world. The fiber is five times warmer than sheep’s wool, stronger than mohair, more luxurious than cashmere, and smoother than silk. The fiber is elastic, hypoallergenic, and never feels itchy because it contains lanolin; the smooth cell structure with its microscopic air pockets helps to create lightweight apparel with higher insulation value and thermal capacity than almost any other animal fiber.

Habitat

Alpaca Habitat

The Andean region of Peru has a unique ecosystem. The fiber quality of the alpaca is no accident, as they are raised in unique environmental conditions. Alpacas live in altitudes that range between 3000 and more than 5000 meters above sea level, where they withstand temperatures ranging from -4ºF to + 86ºF. They live in a natural and healthy environment free of pollution, breathing fresh air and eating natural grasses untarnished by agricultural chemicals and fertilizer contaminants.





Alpaca Types

Alpaca Suri

Alpaca Huacayo

Alpaca Suri

The fiber of this breed is long and straight, and is organized in waves that fall to each side of the body. The fiber is shiny, fine, silky and has a great luster and lightness, and is extremely soft. 
• Suri represent just 10% of the world's alpaca population
• Population: 4,000,000
• Habitat: Peru, Chile, Bolivia

 

Alpaca Huacayo

The fiber is short, thick, dense, and slightly crimped; this gives the fur a spongy appearance and texture. Their abundant coverage gives the Huacayo a harmonious shape with an appearance of strength and gracefulness, and a soft and huggable look. 
Huacayo represent 90% of the world’s alpaca population.
Populaton: 4,000,000
Habitat: Peru, Chile, Bolivia





Vital Static



Average height: 34-38 inches tall at the top of the front shoulder. 
• Gestation period: 11 month.
• Average weight: 100 to 175 lbs.
• Weight of babies (crias): 15 to 20 lbs.
• A female should produce between 8 and 12 crias during her lifetime.
• Average lifespan: between 15 to 25 years.
• Reproductive lifespan of females: approximately 12-14 years; from 3-17 years of age. 
• Alpacas are an ecologically friendly animal.
• Colors: 24 basic colors, with many variations and blends. 
• Weight of fleece: a mature alpaca generally produces between 3 – 13 lbs of fiber a year. 
• Alpacas are sheared once or twice a year. 

Taxonomy

Scientific classification
• Order: artiodactyla
• Sub-order: tylopoda camelids
• Family: camelidae
• Name: lama pacos alpaca



Vital Static 



Alpaca Fiber


Alpaca Natural Colors





Properties

Alpaca fiber has 24 natural colors, and is highly prized for its natural properties of warmth, softness and strength. The fiber is five times warmer than sheep’s wool fiber, stronger than mohair, more luxurious than cashmere, and smoother than silk. It has thermal properties due to the smooth cell structure, with microscopic air pockets that help to create lightweight apparel with very high insulation value.

Alpaca fiber is strong and resilient, and has more thermal capacity than almost any other animal fiber. It is resistant to odors, tearing, pilling, staining, moisture static, and aging. It is also hypoallergenic, not itchy, durable, and elastic, characteristics that are not found in other natural fibers.







Shearing

Alpacas are shorn once or twice per year, the same type of clippers that are used for sheep. The alpaca wool is then collected by shepherds and sold to manufacturers to make alpaca fiber thread and alpaca weaves. Alpacas generally produce between 3-13 lb. of fiber per year.

 

Alpaca Suri

Alpaca Suri 

 






Baby Alpaca Fiber

The fineness of the alpaca’s fleece is directly related to the age of the alpaca. The finest alpaca fiber comes from the first shearing, and is known as “baby alpaca”. Twice per year the wool is cropped; the first two crops are considered baby fiber, and the rest are not. 

 

 







Technical Standards

 

Alpaca Fiber Classification

 

Peruvian Institute for Alpaca and Camelids (IPAC) created the Standing Committee to establish the Technical Standards for Alpaca Fiber (NTPFA). The INDECOPI Commission for Technical Regulations has approved the technical standards, classifying Peruvian alpaca fiber into different degrees and business categories.


The characteristics by which the overall fiber quality can be judged are:

• Fineness
• Length
• Fiber type
• Medullation
• Tensile strength

 

 

 

 

Once the alpacas have been shorn, the fiber is manually classified into the following grades:

ALPACA FIBER CLASSIFICATION MICRONS*
BL Super Baby Alpaca 19-20
BL Baby Alpaca 21.5-22.5
FS Sinfe Spinning Alpaca 25.5-26.5
SU-BL Baby Alpaca Suri 22.5
SU Alpaca Suri 27.5
AG Coarse Alpaca +30
*1 Micron (.00003937 inch)  










Alpaca Suri



Alpaca Huacayo









Alpaca History

 


Machu Picchu   Alpaca Textile

Pre-Inca Cultures

Alpaca wool was used to make extraordinary textiles rich in color and design, with alpaca fiber being one of the most expensive and highly prized fibers used by Inca and Pre-Inca cultures. 

 

 

 

 

Textiles

Alpacas were domesticated thousands of years ago and raised for their incredibly soft and resilient fine fleece. The surviving Incans sought sanctuary in the highest reaches of their beloved Andes. Alpacas are therefore essentially hardy and healthy animals, toughened by 5,000 years of life in the hostile environment of the high Andes.

 

 

     
Alpaca Textile   Alpaca Suri

Spanish Conquerors

When the Spanish conquerors arrived in Peru, in the effort to subjugate the native people, by some accounts as much as 90% of the alpacas in South America were slaughtered and only a small proportion of these wonderful animals were saved by the native population

 

 

 

 

Alpacas Secreted to Altiplano

The alpacas were secreted away to the barren and remote Altiplano, where they faded into the background of history and were forced into the marginal, extremely high-elevation pastures where they are found today.

 

 

 

 

     
Alpaca Suri   Alpaca Protected Industry

Discovery of the Properties of Alpaca

In the mid-1800s, Sir Titus Salt in London, England discovered that alpaca fiber was stronger than sheep's wool, and that its strength did not decrease with increasing fineness.

 

 

 

Alpacas as a Protected Industry

For many years alpacas were a protected industry in South America, but after the modern world discovered the special qualities of alpaca fiber, farming for export began to grow.

 

 

 

     
Alpaca Suri   Alpaca Suri
     

Global Alpaca Export

In 1984 alpacas were first exported to the United States, and in 1989 they were exported from Peru and Chile to Australia and New Zealand, Canada, and England. Today alpacas can be found in the United States, Japan, Great Britain, Israel, and France.

 

 

 

 

Alpacas in the Fashion World

History has proven the value of the alpaca, and in the present day alpacas are an economic force that sustains millions of South Americans, and textiles produced from their fiber can be found in the fashion centers of Paris, Milan, and Tokyo. 

 

 

 

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