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The Domesticated Alpaca

The Domesticated Alpaca
By: John Alaga

One mammal reared mainly for their wool is the Alpaca. Alpacas are a domesticated mammal that's derived from the family of camels. Genetics has determined that Alpacas are descendants of Vicunas. Alpaca are found in the highlands and parts of Peru, Bolivia and Chile. Green grasses are the main sources for food and water for hydration.

Alpaca is one of the four species of fiber producing animals reared in South America. The other three are Ilama, guanaco and vicuna. Among these alpaca and Ilama are the domestic animals whereas vicuna and guanaco stray around. The former two are reared because they produce wool. Alpaca provides good amount and quality of wool whereas vicuna has a soft and fine coat. The hair obtained from the Alpaca in the early 19th century were as long as 12 inches but these days the length has decreased and is almost the half of it. Besides, white, brown, and black, the fleeces of alpaca are grey and fawn in color. The yarn produced from mixing all these colors is ginger colored, which is further dyed in black.

Incas initially raised the Alpaca for good quality wool but due to hybridization of the Alpaca and the Ilama, the quality of wool was dramatically reduced. These wools were later exported to Europe since it was discovered that alpaca cloth can be made out of the wool. Currently, raising alpaca is practiced highly in Canada, USA, and other such nations. It is seen as one of the growing industries in these nations.

Alpacas appears similar in shape and size to sheep. They are a little taller, height with a high erect neck and a better shaped head. Just like sheep they are domesticated in large flocks. Alpacas have a peculiar habit of spitting like their counterparts Ilamas.

Alpaca is also the term used by textile industry for wool derived from Peruvian alpaca and the type of fabric made from alpaca fiber. The latter is more frequently used. These days this alpaca fiber is made from mohair, English wool and Icelandic sheep wool. The traders differentiate between these two types of fibers, although buyers fail to identify the original alpaca.

This article was posted on November 17, 2005
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