Alpaca Defined

Alpaca images hero

alpaca definition

Alpaca - heroes

These precious creatures are packing charisma. Their super-soft fleece is popular in manchester and babywear. Image source: dailymail.co.uk

Introducing the alpaca – the distant and defiantly curious-looking cousin of the camel. An ancestor of the vicuña,* the alpaca is celebrated for its soft and silky locks. A mere flick through the alpaca family album reveals a series of rockingly good hairstyles. We’re talking eighties-retro to steam-punk and beyond.

*A vicuña is a wild South American camelid that frolics amongst the high alpine areas of the Andes…

A pretty darn pretty individual from the vicuña family… and the fleece of an alpaca. Image source from left: via windyvalleymuskox.net, svcalypso.com and homefieldalpacas.co.uk

In addition to their renegade coiffures, the alpaca gifts the world the most heart-breakingly soft fleece. Silky yet durable, this natural fibre can be both light or heavy in weight, depending on how it’s spun.

Its wool is similar to sheep’s wool but without the prickles. Organic yet luxurious, this natural fibre is hypoallergenic and water-resistant. It’s warmer than wool without the lanolin (associated with allergies) AND it’s difficult to ignite (always good).

In addition to pure wool and mohair blankets, St Albans has a range of natural alpaca products. Handcrafted in Australia for over 60 years, these deliciously soft blankets keep you cosy all year round.

It’s no wonder really that alpaca wool is a fave in the manufacture of manchester and fashion. (Check your Armani suit. Them threads may well be alpaca. We’re not kidding.) Even softer still, baby fleece is used in babywear and baby blankets.

There are two types of alpaca – the Suri (model #1 – below left – with silky pencil-like locks like dreadlocks without the dread – they don’t matt even sans-conditioner) and the Huacaya (model #2 – below right – sporting the soft, dense, sheep-like fleece).

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Suris and Huacayas just hanging out. Image source from left: via sheepandgoat.com and sacriel.tv

The rarer of the two, Suris are associated with the Incan royalty (noice). They were a source of clothing, fuel, company (!) and food** as far back as 5,000 years.

**How could you eat these gorgeous fellows?? (Okay – yes – I am a vegetarian.)

Alpacas in Australia are typically shorn once a year in spring, producing 1-4.5kg of fleece per animal. Accustomed to the extreme climates of South America, they were introduced to Australia around 1989. Growing up to 1 metre in height (and that’s just to the shoulders), they make one sturdy companion.

But beware – they don’t like to be held (good to know). And they have a sliiiiight penchant for spitting!

Pre- and post-shearing… Have a look at those happy little faces! Image sources from left: via tansydolls.blogspot.com and photoblip.com

Thinking of nabbing an alpaca for yourself? These cuties live 15-20 years. That’s some kind of investment.

For the more commitment-phobic, maybe a super-cosy alpaca throw and a picture of your fave rock-alpaca on the wall will suffice… 😉

Kay is a feature, blog and copywriter. She collects empty jam jars, academic degrees and tawdry dreams in the hopes of turning them into something useful someday. Her work has been published in ACP magazines, ABC fiction, Overland, Brittle Star, Seizure, trade publications and online forums. Her creative writing has won several awards.