| Wildlife & Flora
If you travel through Peru, particularly through the Sacred Valley, you are likely to see at least one alpaca and you might want to know a few Alpaca Facts before you encounter them yourself. These curious looking creatures have become one of the hallmarks of a trip to the iconic ruins of Machu Picchu and are often found wandering the streets of Cusco and its nearby villages.
Seeing an alpaca up close is a real treat. These woolly, four-legged animals are utterly adorable – provided they aren’t spitting at you. But, if you want to make the experience all the more delightful, it helps to know a bit about what exactly you’re seeing.
Here is everything you need to know about alpacas. Use your new knowledge to enrich your own experience or to bore your friends at brunch – the choice is yours!
Facts About Alpacas
The first thing you should know about alpacas is that they are not wild animals. Alpacas are a domesticated version of vicuñas, which look very similar but live in the high reaches of the Andes mountains and are wild. Traditionally, alpacas have been farmed for their exceptionally soft wool, although they are increasingly being used for meat as well.
Alpacas are herbivores, subsisting mainly off grass, and they breed, in general, once per year. The average lifespan for an alpaca is around 20 years, so if you decide to buy one as a pet, you’ll have it for a long time.
Where Do They Live?
Alpacas are incredibly adaptable creatures. Their habitat is farmland, so anywhere with open grassland and a mild climate will satisfy the needs of an alpaca. You’ll be able to find alpacas in the UK, New Zealand, the Netherlands, the United States, and South Africa. But, to this day, South America is home to around 99% of the global alpaca population, with Peru alone boasting over 50% of all the alpacas in the world.
There are two different types of alpaca and depending on which type you find, the wool will have different properties. The Suri alpacas have long, wavy hair, almost like soft dreadlocks, hanging from their bodies. The other type of alpaca is the Huacaya. This is the more common of the two types and they have shorter, fluffier wool that is very soft to the touch.
The domestication of alpacas for the use of their wool stems all the way back to the time of the Incas – around 6,000 years ago. Back then, the wool of the alpacas was used only for the nobility and elite. Unlike sheep’s wool, alpaca wool is not itchy and does not contain lanolin, making it hypoallergenic. If that wasn’t enough, alpaca fibre is also water-resistant and flame-resistant, making it the superhero of natural fibres. If you visit a place with a cool, damp climate, such as the misty Scared Valley in Peru, you will notice that alpaca wool is much warmer but also much lighter than traditional cotton.
Now we have covered the basics, it is time for some of the weirder and more wonderful facts about alpacas. The first thing you should know about these highly intelligent creatures is that they share a bathroom. That’s right, while most animals defecate wherever they want, alpacas will allocate one section of their field to be a common bathroom for the whole pack. This prevents the spread of disease and leaves much more edible grass for the animals.
Alpacas make all kinds of strange noises, ranging from squawks to almost human-like screams. But, the most common noise for an alpaca to make is a hum. Alpacas hum all the time to express a range of different emotions, from boredom to confusion to happiness.
Sure, you could go to your local farm or petting and zoo and you will probably see an alpaca. But, this simply doesn’t compare to seeing these creatures where they belong – in the mountains of South America. If you’re ready to ogle alpacas as they graze on the lush slopes of the Sacred Valley, start planning your South American adventure now. For more information about Alpaca Facts or for booking a tour of the Sacred Valley in Peru, please contact us or call 1-888-215-3555.