Alpacas an ancient Peruvian Pet
By Karin Schill
(05/31/2013) Alpacas are a domesticated species of South American camelid. They live in the Andes in Southern Peru and have been kept as pets for thousands of years. The alpacas are prized for their fibers that are used to make different textiles.
The alpacas are kept in herds and live in the mountains close to Puno and Arequipa. At approximately 90 cm in height at the withers they are smaller than camels and lamas, but bigger than the vicuña. The vicuña is the wild animal that the alpacas are probably a descendent from. They live in the Colca Canyon, which is one of Peru’s most reputable adventure travelling havens. The Vicuña is a cultural symbol of Peru and can be found on the country’s national shield.
Alpacas are originally from Peru and were living in the Sacred Valley of the Incas already during the Inca Empire. Today the Alpacas can also be found in Australia and United States of America as some herds have been exported by the Alpaca industry. But most of the worlds’ alpacas can still be found in Peru, which has an alpaca population of approx. 3.5 million animals.
The alpacas are a part of Peru’s natural and cultural heritage. The alpaca herds are a valuable asset for many poor families living in Peru. Since the alpacas requires less food than most other animals their size they are quite profitable to bring up. The alpacas’ diet consists of grass, plants and hay.
The alpacas are bred specifically for their fiber. Alpaca fiber is a lustrous and silky natural fiber that is similar to sheep’s wool but better since it bears no lanolin, which makes it flame-resistant and hypoallergenic. It is also softer, warmer and more luxurious than sheep’s wool. The fiber comes in 52 natural colors in Peru. It is cut from the alpacas and goes through a process of carding, spinning and weaving before it is used for making knitted and woven items.
The Peruvian people uses alpaca wool to make some of their traditional clothes such as Ponchos, which is a hand-woven waistcoat worn by men. It is traditionally made in red with different regional patterns. Men also often wear Chullos, which are knitted hats with earflaps. Women’s clothes includes: Pollera, which is a colorful skirt that is often worn in a layer of three skirts or more, Juyuna, which is a wool jacket, Lliclla, which is a shoulder cloths and Monteras, which are different hats.
Some of the most common items that the people of Peru make from Alpaca wools are blankets, sweaters, hats, gloves, scarves and ponchos. When going on our Andean Explorer tour you can see how Alpaca textiles are made by hand by local people.