This species of animal that we all know and love has proven rather mythic and mysterious in the animal world. Firstly, it's important to note that what we believe to be "wild alpacas" don't really exist. They are actually a domesticated version of Vicunas, which live in the Andes. Alpacas are however related to llamas, but these too are domesticated and are descended from another living species from the Andes: the Guanaco.
Alpacas are often bred for their soft wool which doesn’t retain water. It has also been claimed that alpaca fur is the second strongest animal fibre after mohair, made from the fur of Angora goats. Many jumpers and scarfs have alpaca fur included to make them extra soft and cozy in the winter time.
Additionally, alpacas are extremely gentle and social animals and, therefore, make for very good pets. Indeed, they’re increasingly found to be a part of traditional farms or petting zoos that allow children to get up close to the animals.
However, they are also known to spit at one another during competitive interactions for food or when establishing dominance. They have been reported to make a vast range of sounds when interacting with members of their species, like when the male ones fight each other.
Interestingly, alpacas that are part of the same herd use the same area to go to the bathroom instead of defecating all over the place. This has been suggested as helping to contain the spread of parasites in their localized environment. Funnily enough, the females' ‘bathrooms’ are messier than the males' one!
They are ruminant animals, like cows, and eat vegetation, predominantly grass and leaves.
They breed once a year and babies are known as Crias. It is possible to crossbreed llamas and alpacas and the offspring produced is called a huarizo.
Finally, there are 22 different colors of alpaca that have been observed and their endearing and characteristic appearance of having an underbite is caused by the lack of teeth in the top-front of their mouths.
Hopefully, this has afforded you some new knowledge and understanding of this mythic and cute creature, and might even have encouraged you to find some of that soft fur to use for curling up in when Christmas finally comes!