Alpacas cannot be reconciled with the term ‘classic pets’ though choosing to raise alpacas may seem obscure but can be highly rewarding. If you’re searching for something a little unusual, a well-cared-for alpaca can become a pet with herd instincts, likable mannerisms, and the bonus of a harvestable fleece. In fact thousands of alpacas are registered in Europe and America.
Alpacas are often lovable creatures, which offer many human friendly traits. Read until the end to discover the pros and cons of keeping this gangly ruminant and if its rumored hard to swallow vices, like spitting are fact or fiction.
- Kingdom: Animalia
- Order: Artiodactyla
- Genus: Vicugna
- Species: V. pacos
- Family: Camelidae
- Phylum: Chordata
- Class: Mammalia
Table of Contents
Alpaca Origins and Distribution
Alpacas herald from the altiplano (Spanish for “high plain”) in west-central, South America. This Andes region, which straddles the borders of Peru, Chile, and Bolivia, is nearly 4000 meters (13123.36 feet) above sea level.
They are not related to sheep or any other more common “Old World” domestic animal evident in their unusual, fluffy charm – gangly necks and legs, pointed ears, cleft toes, and dense coats. They are from the “New World,” namely from South America.
Alpacas are a camelid species that are closely related to llamas. Llamas (Lama glama) and alpacas (Vicugna pacos) are domesticated camelids, while vicunas (Vicugna vicugna) and guanacos (Lama guanicoe) are wild and protected species in South America. All four species are primarily found in Peru’s Andes, with minor populations in Chile and Bolivia.
Ancestors of the llama are believed to have lived on the Great Plains of North America about 40-50 million years ago and migrated to South America 3m years ago, as a corridor rose between the two continents.
The alpaca and llama were domesticated from the wild vicuna and guanaco around 6000 years ago, according to history. The alpaca was created primarily to produce fleece, with meat as a secondary benefit.
Fantastic Facts About Alpacas
- Alpaca fleeces were reserved for Inca kings
- The largest genetic reserve of colored alpaca in the world, is located in Puno, Peru with twenty of the known twenty three tones of alpaca. Research in biotechnologies and food has made it possible to conserve and preserve the genetic variability of colored alpacas in their two breeds: suri and huacaya, a legacy of the ancient alpaca breeders
- Alpacas, were traditionally used to transport small bags and goods, though they are not strong enough to carry human weight.
- Alpacas only have lower teeth so their bite is more of a nibble.
Why Alpacas Can Make Good Pets
Alpacas are described as adorable by many animal lovers, and it’s easy to see why most pet owners are attracted to their luxurious coats, deep dark brown eyes and velvety snouts. Alpacas are friendly creatures if handled properly, loyal guardians over other herd animals and highly trainable if not at first sociable. Here are four good reasons why Alpacas make good pets:
Alpacas Are Extremely Sociable Animals
When you initially buy an alpaca, it may appear distant or wary. This is to be expected, given that your new pet is in an unfamiliar environment with unfamiliar people. Alpacas have personalities that are comparable to cats. Once you’ve earned their trust and shown them there’s nothing to be afraid of, they’ll let you get closer to them.
Your alpacas will become tame enough to enable you to pet, hand feed, and even snuggle with them once they’ve been acquainted with you. A pet alpaca may even greet you by rubbing its head against yours and showing its unwillingness to want you to leave by softly standing on your toes.
Alpacas are quite playful and get along well with children, especially if they are socialised from a young age, though alpacas are nervous of strangers. Quizzically, unlike adults, young alpacas aren’t usually afraid of children, thought to be due to their similar hight.
Alpacas Have Distinct and Different Personalities and Looks
The majority of alpacas are fun and curious, though this is not always the case. Alpaca pets are similar to people in that they each have their own distinct personalities. Others are more watchful and reserved, while others are more extroverted and interested.
One of the reasons alpaca fibre is so popular is that it comes in such a wide range of colors (23 hues are known). The vast range of hues eliminates the need to dye it throughout the manufacturing process.
Alpaca fleece grows in a myriad of colors, including silver, rose grey, white, camel, brown, black, tawny brown among others. The bond you create with your alpaca can be rewarding in your daily life, learning its traits, likes and dislikes and forging companionship.
Dual Purpose Attraction of Alpacas as Pets
Alpacas are excellent pets because they are kind, easy to train, and easy to manage. They’re also quite devoted. Even if you’re buying an alpaca primarily for the purpose of keeping it as a pet, you can also use it for its lovely fleece. You’ve probably felt the softness an alpaca’s wool if you’ve ever petted one. Not only is their fleece exceptionally soft, but it’s amazingly fire resistant, being granted a rating of 1 from the US government.
The fact that an alpaca’s fleece is waterproof allows it to be a fine fleece for jumpers, jackets and hooded attire, making it a wonderful substitute for sheep’s wool and cotton. Alpaca wool is also hypoallergenic, so it won’t scratch or aggravate allergies. Make clothing and blankets for the home or begin a business.
Alpacas Are Intelligent
A benefit of making an alpaca as your pet is the ease of which they can be successfully trained. Rewards are usually warmly received; they can even be trained to sit, walk aside you and use a litter box.
These incredible creatures are excellent at warding off predators of many kinds, including coyotes and foxes, though large household dogs should be kept away or trained not to frighten alpacas.
Spitting: Myth or Fact?
Alpacas flourish in herds because they have prey animal instincts and will keep an eye out, panicking if startled. Their attitude is sometimes expressed by spitting at the threat, which is not a pleasant experience. Alpacas are unlikely to spit at humans unless you come between two conflicting animals.
To maintain them in their field and barn, they should be halter trained and handled frequently. This makes interactions easier and safer, in the event of an emergency or for routine examinations.
Alpacas and other camelids are noted for being excellent protectors of their herd members, and will frequently include sheep or other small domestic animals under their protection. They will chase, hiss, spit, kick, and generally make such a commotion that most predators will flee the field in search of an easier target. You could say alpacas are pets cum herd animals.
By mixing three to four alpacas in the lambing field and allowing them to keep a watch on comings and goings, they are able to successfully protected lambs from foxes, crows, and even badgers.
Physical Description of Alpacas
Alpacas are slender-bodied animals with small heads, long necks and legs, small heads with large pointed ears. They have a soft fleece covering that is almost guard hair-free and comes in a variety of colours. Alpacas have soft, cushioned feet that allow them to feed without harming even the most fragile grasses and terrain. Huacaya and suri alpacas are the two varieties of alpacas.
Personalities of Alpacas
Alpacas are intelligent, friendly, and easy to handle animals with distinct personalities. Alpacas are herd animals and should not be kept alone. They are shy, but very curious, calm, and intelligent. They form bonds with others based on their place in the group/surrounding.
They learn by watching the other members of the herd or humans around them. Alpacas are popular pets, and therapy animals because they seem to understand the need to be sensible and kind with children.
Alpacas can’t defend themselves because they only have bottom teeth. Because their feet are padded on the bottom, they can’t inflict much damage with their kicks. Their major means of self-defense is to flee, therefore when confronted by a person, they will naturally flee. Once they grow to know their owners, develop trust, and feel comfortable, this becomes less of an issue.
They spend much of the day relaxing or lying down, chewing their cud. Occasionally, the entire herd will “pronk,” which is a sight to behold as all four feet leave the ground as they follow each other across the meadow in a dance.
How do Alpacas Communicate?
Alpacas communicate with a quiet hum, as well as additional vocalizations and body language like neck posturing, ear and tail posture, and head tilting.
They have great vision and hearing, and will use a staccato warning call to warn the herd and their human guardians of any potential threat. Alpacas rarely spit unless they are scared or abused, but they will utilise this method of communication to express their dissatisfaction with something.
Interaction With Humans
Kicking and biting are extremely individualised when interacting with humans. Alpacas’ hind legs are usually sensitive, and if they perceive a threat from behind, they will reflexively kick backwards.
Although the majority of alpacas do not kick humans, there are a few who do. This is especially true when a pregnant woman is trying to avoid an amorous male’s advances.
Human injuries are rare, thanks to the foot’s sensitive cushion. If they are handled well as kids, most alpacas react well to desensitization of the rear legs.
Biting by alpacas is extremely unusual, and it is not a widespread problem. If it does happen, it’s more likely to be a case of spoiled pets seeking attention rather than an attack. Alpacas, like most ruminants, have only one set of teeth and a firm pad, so it’s more like a nibble.
Alpacas have one of the least charming characteristics: they spit. It’s one of the alpaca’s few defence mechanisms, and it’s a powerful deterrent. The stuff is essentially regurgitated or recently eaten grass, which brushes off easily once dry. It has a distinct and slightly irritating odor, so it’s best to stay away from it.
An alpaca, rarely spits at humans. The normal function is to establish a pecking order among the other members of its herd. When a human is hit by an alpaca, it’s typically because the person didn’t interpret the signs correctly when stepping between two fighting alpacas.
Alpaca Food and Water
Alpacas are sturdy animals that don’t require overly much attention. Even if they reside in a dry-lot with no grazing pasture, they are frugal, using only around a bale of hay per month. The best form of hay for alpacas is grass hay, such as orchard grass or timothy.
Alfalfa can be fed to animals that need to acquire weight, but only in moderation otherwise, as it will make them obese. This is not only bad for them, but it also coarsens their fibre and reduces their worth. Alpacas are ruminants who chew the cud. For drinking, they need plenty of clean water. Alpacas love treats such as diced carrots, pumpkins, broccoli and turnips.
Shelter for Your Pet Alpaca
In comparison to most other types of livestock, alpacas are rather simple to care for. They can survive in a variety of climates. However, because they are sensitive to heat and humidity, large indoor fans are required in their barns throughout the summer or hotter climates.
Alpacas have a surprising ability to live in confined spaces. Depending on the condition of the pasture, two to eight alpacas per acre should be sufficient. There should be some sort of shelter where they can get away from the cold, rain, and snow.
Although alpacas do not challenge fences, they must be kept in a pasture to keep predators at bay. Dogs are one of the most serious risks to alpacas, and even the family dog who isn’t used to being around animals can be a problem.
Alpacas are inherently clean animals, with only one part of their pasture designated as a communal “dung pile.” Alpacas have a low odor and, in comparison to other livestock, attract fewer insects in the summer. Their manure is a fantastic fertilizer that doesn’t need to be composted, which gardeners hold in high esteem.
Alpacas, like any animals, can have parasites. To reduce the possibility of parasite infestation, owners should clean the dung piles on a regular basis. Because alpacas only leave “beans” in a few spots in the pasture, cleanup is simpler than other large animals. Consult your veterinarian about taking worming treatments on a regular basis to keep the common internal and external parasites at bay.
Alpacas are grazers who will eat a wide variety of plants and bushes, some of which can be dangerous. To assist you in identifying any concerns in your region, contact your County Extension Agent. A good tip is to limit their access to plant life with large grass fields offering good grazing.
Shearing is recommended once a year for optimal health. Some owners shear their alpacas twice a year to keep them from overheating in warmer climes. Toenails should be cut once or twice a month. Tetanus and clostridia bacteria are both protected by an annual immunisation. Annual rabies vaccination is also recommended in some locations. Check with your veterinarian to see what’s suggested in your area.
Alpacas can make good pets, if kept well. This means providing space to roam, a barn for shelter and access to good sustenance. Furthermore, as alpacas are herd animals, it’s a good idea to buy more than one—preferably two or three. Alpacas are lawful in all 50 states in the United States but need registering in the United Kingdom and many European countries.