The Alpaca (vicugña pacos) is a domesticated species of South American camelid. They are members of the camelid family. The camels that most people are familiar with are the ones with humps, however, there are four other camelids (without humps) that are indigenous to South America: two of them, llamas and alpacas, have been domesticated for thousands of years; whereas the other two varieties, guanacos and vicunas, continue to roam in wild herds today.
The alpaca comes in two breed-types: huacaya (pronounced wahKIah) and suri (SOOree). Huacayas, the more common type, account for about 90% of all alpacas and have wavy or crimpy fleece that gives the animals a cuddly appearance. Suris, on the other hand, grow a silky, lustrous fleece that drapes gracefully in defined pencil-locks. Approximately 90% of the international population of alpaca is huacaya making Suri the rarer breed.
They are gentle, elegant, inquisitive, intelligent, and observant. As they are a prey animal, they are cautious and nervous if they feel threatened. Their social nature makes them want to protect their herd mates and they develop relationships with each other.
Alpaca produce annually with an average 350-day gestation, so the US herd size grows slowly. Import of alpaca is restricted, difficult, and risky, leaving herd growth to the US buyers. Means of generating pregnancies through AI or ET is also limited due to the challenges associated with alpaca reproduction. This lends great opportunities for alpaca owners as the fiber market and alpaca market evolves.