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Alpaca History

Alpacas History
For 6,000 years alpacas have provided warmth, sustenance, and a total way of life to countless generations of farmers and herders in the altiplano, or high plateau regions of Peru, Bolivia, and Chile. A harsh, cool environment, the altiplano rises from 12,000 to 16,000 feet above sea level, has little precipitation and is sparsely vegetated. As a result, alpacas have developed a highly-efficient digestive system and require far less caloric intake than most major livestock animals.The ancient Incans and civilizations before them developed and maintained large alpaca herds and harvested their exceptionally fine fleece for luxurious woven cloth.

The Spanish conquest of the highly-evolved Inca Empire nearly 500 years ago severely disrupted the pastoral way of life and centuries of selective breeding practices. Evidence from mummified remains of alpacas from the pre-conquest era shows an exceptional level of fleece fineness, crimp, and density which exceed today's typical fleece qualities.

Alpacas were first imported to the United States in 1984. An alpaca registry was soon formed which requires DNA verification of all offspring – both parents must be in the registry. This ensures that alpacas are not bred to llamas or huarizos which are a cross between a male llama and a female alpaca. The registry was closed to new imports in 1998. Registered alpacas in the U.S. now number about 165,000.

Updated June 04, 2014