Although they are native to South America, the alpaca is now domesticated in numerous countries throughout the world. This includes America, where alpaca farming was once a boom industry largely because of their fiber. However, these cute, cuddly animals aren’t just famous for their wool. They have a long history and their fleece was once revered among royalty. If you are curious about these fascinating animals, here are seven facts you don’t know about alpacas.
Alpaca Was Once Only Fit For Royalty
You might be aware of the luxurious nature of alpaca fiber, but you may not know that it was once considered the ‘Fiber of the Gods’; the term originated from the Incas in Peru. Back then, alpaca was only worn by royalty and it was considered so precious that it was kept under lock and key. However, today it has a much wider audience and it’s used widely around the globe to produce wool and woven goods. It’s also used in fashion ranges and by high end designers.
Alpacas Are Vulnerable To Certain Weather Conditions
Their thick fibers give the alpaca some protection from the cold. However, despite their resilient nature, they need protection from harsh winds and rain. The summer weather can also be a challenge for owners as alpacas are vulnerable to heat stress. To help counter the effects of the hotter weather, alpacas need plenty of shade, and some farmers even use fans to help keep them cool.
Their Fiber Has Numerous Advantages
If you have sensitive skin, you could benefit from wearing alpaca due to its many beneficial qualities. First of all, it’s hypoallergenic, and unlike sheep’s wool it doesn’t contain lanolin. Also, it has a fine texture, which means it’s much less likely to irritate your skin. It’s water resistant, so it wicks away moisture preventing you from getting saturated in an unexpected rain storm or if you sweat; this is why it is favored for outdoor activities and why alpaca wool is often used in jackets and coats.
In addition, the yarn has many qualities that make it superior to other wools. The fiber is stronger and warmer, while also being softer, luxurious, hardwearing and functional. These qualities might explain its growing popularity with fashion houses.
The Fleece Varies With The Breed
There are two types of alpaca: Huacayas and Suri; the breed determines the nature of the fiber. Huacaya fiber is denser with a crimped appearance, and Suri is finer and has more of a shine. Huacaya is preferred in knitwear, while Suri fiber is used in woven goods like blankets, scarfs and throws. Suri is generally used alongside other wools due to its finer texture.
Alpacas Make Strange Noises
If you’ve been up close to an alpaca, you might have heard them making some strange sounds. As with other animals, each sound they make has a different purpose. A humming noise can represent a range of different emotions from anxiety to curiosity, while a screaming sound can be a warning sign or an indication of fear. Screeching can indicate stress, or it’s a noise made by males when they are in combat with each other. If they’re making a clucking noise, then this is generally considered a friendly sound.
Their Fibers Come In An Amazing Array Of Different Shades
There are 22 shades of alpaca fiber. However, in South America they recognize a much wider range of 52 different shades. They come in various tones of browns, blacks, grays, white and beige, and a range of patterns as well, which gives the wool a greater versatility.
Suri Alpacas Are Much Rarer
Suri alpacas account for approximately 7% of the alpaca population. Due to the rarity of the Suri breed, they cost more to buy, and the prices fetched for the wool are significantly higher. A female Suri can cost up to $20,000 to purchase.
The Alpaca Has A Long History
Alpacas have been domesticated for more than 5,000 years. They are mainly bred for their fiber or their meat, and alpaca farming in the United States went through a boom period. However, as time moved on, the limited demand for alpaca fiber led to the market in the U.S. declining.
The benefits of alpaca wool have been highly regarded for centuries, and it’s a popular part of the fashion industry today. Due to the nature of the fiber it provides a hint of luxury, while also being hardwearing, practical and versatile, which makes it ideal for use in fabrics and clothing ranges. You can view the Woop! Wear range of clothing here.