Fun Alpaca Facts For Kids

Georgia Stone
Aug 29, 2023 By Georgia Stone
Originally Published on Oct 15, 2021
Alpaca facts are fascinating to kids and grown-ups alike.
Age: 3-18
Read time: 8.3 Min

Docile and adorable, alpacas are domesticated farm animals prized all over the world for their soft, luxurious, and high-grade alpaca fiber. Belonging to the camel family Camelidae, alpacas are a South American mammal species closely related to llamas and derived from the vicuña, a wild South American camelid species.

However, contrary to the llamas and vicuñas, there are no wild alpacas. In other words, every alpaca is domesticated and belongs to a farmer!

In fact, the alpaca is a domesticated version of the wild vicuña. The alpaca habitat is limited to the high altitude areas of the Andes mountains in South America, particularly southern Peru, northern Argentina, northern Chile, southern Colombia, Ecuador, and western Bolivia.

Out of the four lamoid species (the vicuña, guanaco, alpaca, and llama), the alpacas are the most specialized and inhabit marshy mountainous areas. In addition, they have a pretty limited range when compared with their other lamoid cousins.

Alpacas are adorable animals with slender bodies, long legs, long necks, small heads, pointed ears, and short tails. They have a shaggy coat that comes in 22 different natural colors, according to the Alpaca Owners and Breeders Association.

Moreover, the alpaca yarn derived from the animal's fleece is often compared to cashmere and is known worldwide for its sheer luster, durability, softness, fineness, exceptional thermal qualities, and lightweight.

Read on to know more about these useful domesticated animals, including alpaca vs llama facts! If you like this article, why not learn about the bharal and gerenuk as well?

Alpaca Interesting Facts

What type of animal is an alpaca?

Alpacas are a domesticated species of camelid mammal native to South America. The two breeds of alpaca are the Huacaya alpaca and the Suri alpaca.

What class of animal does an alpaca belong to?

Alpacas belong to the class of mammals. Belonging to the camel family Camelidae, alpacas are a South American mammal species closely related to llamas and derived from the vicuña.

How many alpacas are there in the world?

Since alpacas are domesticated animals, it is not possible to keep a record of their global population size. However, statistics by the Alpaca Owners and Breeders Association show that there are over 200,000 registered alpacas worldwide, including North America. The maximum percentage of alpacas is found in South America.

Where does an alpaca live?

Alpacas are native to South America and are concentrated in the southern and central Andes mountains. They inhabit the mountainous regions of southern Peru, northern Chile, western Bolivia, southern Colombia, Ecuador, and northern Argentina.

Alpacas are very adaptable animals and have been extensively imported to different places around the world, including Australia, the United States, the Netherlands, and New Zealand. Yet, 99% of the global alpaca population is found in South America.

What is an alpaca's habitat?

Alpacas are farm animals that are typically found grazing in high-altitude mountains and plateaus of temperate regions. They prefer wet areas. The general habitat of alpacas would be farmlands, more specifically, an alpaca farm.

Alpacas are typically found at elevations of 11,483-16,400 ft (3,500-5,000 m) above sea level. The habitats they occupy generally experience severe climates, with temperatures dropping below 32 F (0 C) during the night. The annual precipitation in such regions ranges between 15.7-27.5 in (400-700 mm).

Who do alpacas live with?

Alpacas are quite social animals and can usually be seen in a herd. Besides the alpacas, the herd animals may also comprise other livestock such as sheep, mountain goats, and llamas.

How long does an alpaca live?

In captivity, alpacas may live for approximately 20 years. The longest recorded alpaca lifespan to date is 27 years.

How do they reproduce?

Alpacas can breed all year round since they are induced ovulators. However, breeding during autumn and late spring is most common.

Moreover, male alpacas are polygynous and may breed with multiple females. A pregnant female alpaca typically undergoes a gestation period of 242-345 days, post which she commonly gives birth to a single offspring.

Twins are rare. At birth, alpaca babies have a bodyweight of 15-19 lb (6.8-8.6 kg) and can stand within 30-90 minutes of birth. The young alpacas are weaned for up to six to eight months, either by the females or the breeder.

While the young male alpacas reach breeding maturity by 30-36 months, females achieve so earlier, at 12-15 months of age. Although all South American camelids can successfully cross-breed and produce fertile offspring, crosses between wild and domestic camelid breeds are not normal in nature.

What is their conservation status?

Since the alpacas are domesticated throughout the world, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species does not place them under any particular conservation category.

Alpaca Fun Facts

What do alpacas look like?

With a slender body and neck, alpacas are the smallest domestic camelid species. The ears are big and pointed, and the head is relatively small.

In adult alpaca males, the lower canines and the upper and lower incisors develop into fangs or fighting teeth which could be an inch (3 cm) long. Females, on the other hand, do not develop such prominent fangs.

The coat of the alpacas may be of one color or a mix of different colors.

Accordingly, the Alpaca Owners and Breeders Association has listed around 16 official coat colors, beige, white, shades of brown, fawn, gray, black, and several other subtle hues. The Suri and Huacaya breeds of alpacas are slightly different in terms of the body fleece.

While the Suris have silky and non-crimpy hair fiber growing parallel to the body, the Huacayas have long and crimpy hair that is longer in the neck, body, and legs compared to the head and feet.

Alpacas are covered in dense and shaggy fleece.

How cute are they?

The alpacas are undoubtedly one of the cutest camelids out there! While the fleece-covered body gives them a fluffy appearance, the small head, and innocent-looking face further add to the adorability.

How do they communicate?

Alpacas mostly communicate through body language. For instance, impending danger finds the alpacas assuming an alert posture, erecting the body, and directing the ears towards the possible source of danger.

Male alpacas defending their territory will usually arch their necks, point their tails up, pull back ears, and stand sideways. On the other hand, alpacas that are threatened will give out an alarm call, followed by running away or probing into the danger source.

The submissive crouch is a common posture seen in lower-ranking members or young alpacas whereby the animals lower their necks to the ground and push their tails onto the back.

Alpacas exhibiting a stand-off posture with pushing, spitting, and aggressive behaviors are usually indicative of dominance. Moreover, alpacas spit when they are distressed, scared, or want to exert dominance.

The spit is usually a mixture of air and saliva or grassy stomach contents directed at the target. Alpacas also communicate through a range of different vocalizations, each meant for a specific situation.

Besides the physical gestures, alpacas emit a wide range of vocal sounds. Humming is produced when they are distressed or experience a change in environment, clucking is used by mother alpacas to communicate with babies, snorts are warning signals, and grumbles are used to exert territoriality.

Screeching and screaming mean they are frustrated, stressed, or angry. Male alpacas make an 'orgling' sound while mating.

How big is an alpaca?

Adult alpacas have a head and body length ranging between 4-7.4 ft (120-225 cm) and a height of 3-4.3 ft (90-130 cm) at the shoulders. Alpacas are about a foot (30.5 cm) shorter than llamas.

How fast can an alpaca move?

Alpacas can move quite fast and are known to reach top speeds of 35 mph (56 kph).

How much does an alpaca weigh?

Adult alpacas weigh between 121-143 lb (55-65 kg).

What are the male and female names of the species?

Alpaca males and females do not have distinct names in English. In Spanish, they are known as machos and hembras, respectively.

What would you call a baby alpaca?

A baby alpaca, until weaned is called a cria.

What do they eat?

The alpaca diet is strictly vegetarian and mostly consists of grass. Besides, breeders and ranchers may daily supplement the alpacas' food with low protein grass hay and grains to make up for the necessary dose of vitamins and other nutrients.

Are they dangerous?

Alpacas are not at all dangerous. They are rather gentle and docile creatures and are safe to be around. Alpacas can easily bond with other livestock animals.

Would they make a good pet?

Alpacas make excellent pets. The animal does not have any horns, hooves, or sharp teeth that could pose any serious injury. Moreover, it gets along with any other livestock animal. For the most part, alpacas tend to be gentle, quiet, and are pretty easy to herd and train.

Did you know...

A cross between a llama and an alpaca is a huarizo with intermediate physical characteristics. On the other hand, if an alpaca is crossed with a vicuña, the offspring would be called a pacovicuna resembling the vicuña parent.

What's the difference between alpacas and llamas?

Llamas and alpacas, though belonging to the same camel family, are different in several aspects. The most obvious difference between llama and alpaca is in terms of size; alpacas are smaller in size than llamas.

Moreover, while llamas have banana-sized ears and elongated faces, alpacas have short ears with smaller and blunter faces. Another striking difference between the two is in terms of hair fiber quality and texture.

The hair fiber of llamas is coarse, and the wool is of inferior quality. On the other hand, alpaca fiber is shaggier and is used to produce fleece of the highest grade.

Last but not least, llamas and alpacas differ in terms of economic significance. While llamas are primarily used to carry heavy loads, alpacas are reared for their supreme quality fiber.

Why is alpaca wool so soft?

Compared to wool from most breeds of sheep, alpaca fleece is warmer, lighter, stronger, and more resilient. Unlike sheep's wool, alpaca fleece usually does not irritate the skin and has a distinctive silky feel to it.

While both sheep and alpaca's fiber are similar in structure, the latter has a smoother scale surface, making it ideal for soft and warm winter wear. So, the next time you wear alpaca socks or a sweater that gives you a warm and fuzzy feeling, remember to thank these gentle creatures!

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other mammals, including tundra wolf facts, or the zebu facts pages.

You can even occupy yourself at home by coloring in one of our free printable baby alpaca coloring pages.

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Written by Georgia Stone

Bachelor of Arts specializing in French with Film Studies, Bachelor of Arts (Year Abroad) specializing in Literature, History, Language, Media, and Art

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Georgia StoneBachelor of Arts specializing in French with Film Studies, Bachelor of Arts (Year Abroad) specializing in Literature, History, Language, Media, and Art

Georgia is an experienced Content Manager with a degree in French and Film Studies from King's College London and Bachelors degree from Université Paris-Sorbonne. Her passion for exploring the world and experiencing different cultures was sparked during her childhood in Switzerland and her year abroad in Paris. In her spare time, Georgia enjoys using London's excellent travel connections to explore further afield.

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