Interesting 'Paca Facts
Alpacas and llamas are domesticated species of the camelid family and have never been wild. Alpacas were domesticated from vicunas, and llamas from guancos. The camel is also a camelid.
The lifespan of an alpaca is about 20 years. On average, females can be bred for the first time at about 18 months of age, and gestation is about 11½ months.
Alpacas and llamas have a bad reputation for spitting. This peculiar habit was developed to communicate with each other. For example, a female might spit at an amorous male to signal that she is not interested in his advances (which is one early indication that she may be pregnant). While alpacas rarely spit in anger at people, the distinction might be lost on anyone who happens to be in the line of fire!
Alpacas have a variety of vocal communication techniques, including humming (an expression of contentment; mothers and their crias hum to each other constantly), snorting (warning), clicking (signals friendly and/or submissive behavior), screaming (fear, anger), and orgling (mating sound). It’s a veritable symphony.
Apacas produce a luxury fiber that is soft, light, warm and strong. It is used in high-fashion garments, casual wear, accessories and home furnishings.
Alpacas almost always give birth before mid-day, and they almost always have only one cria at a time. The newborn cria usually stands and begins nursing within an hour.
A female can be re-bred around 14-21 days after parturition (giving birth).
Female alpacas do not come into heat at regular intervals, but follicles develop on their ovaries in wave-like cycles that a breeder should understand in order to synchronize for optimal breedings. Camelids are induced ovulators, which means that the female does not ovulate any eggs until she has been bred by the male. The act of breeding stimulates hormonal events inside the female that result in ovulation.
The average breeding life is 12 crias per female.
Alpacas ruminate (chew their cud), even though they are not true ruminants. (Along with some other differences, true ruminants have a four-compartmented stomach, whereas alpacas have a three-compartmented stomach.) Cows, sheep, goats, deer, alpaca and other animals that ruminate digest plant-based food by initially softening it within the animal’s first stomach (known as the rumen), then regurgitating the semi-digested mass (now known as cud), and chewing it again. This makes them efficient eaters, requiring only about 1.5 percent of body weight in feed per day.
Alpacas do not have upper teeth in front. They have six lower incisors that align with the dental pad on top. Alpacas also have little or no enamel on the tongue side of their teeth, and they experience continual tooth growth well into adulthood.
Alpacas do not have hooves. They have a two-toed foot with toenails and a soft footpad. They are “green” in that their soft footpad allows them to walk through delicate woodlands with little or no impact on the environment.