And the answer is: Incas.
Beloved by the Inca civilization and isolated to the Andes mountains of Peru, alpacas were domesticated at least 6,000 years ago. Their well-insulated fleece, hearty disposition, and the surviving Incas saved the alpaca from extinction during the Spanish conquests.
Although they are likely more comfortable than you or I might be surpassing the rocky, mountain passes of South America, there are actually no wild alpacas in the world. As we know them, alpacas are an entirely domesticated species whose wild cousins are vicuñas, South American ruminants that live high in the Andes. Alpacas are more related to llamas, though, which are domesticated versions of another wild Andean ruminant, the guanaco. This is all to say: alpacas are excellent farm companions, work animals and sometimes even pets.
Alpacas are highly adaptable, and so have increased their population across the world. They thrive in farmland environments, as their soft cloven-hooves prevent damage to the grass and allow continuous grazing without having to wait for regrowth. Alpacas are also remarkably clean creatures, as they designate a certain area of pasture as their “bathroom,” shared by other members of the herd. This allows alpacas to avoid any type of disease caused by parasites.
Alpaca fur is prized across the world for its durability, warmth, and breathability. Thanks to the natural environment in which the animal is raised, alpaca fiber has a natural heat-regulating mechanism. In other words, this means that this wool will keep you at the right temperature and even protect from moisture and the elements. Alpaca wool is even hypoallergenic!
Did you know?
Today, September 26, 2022, is the annual celebration of Alpaca Day! Alpacas have played a significant role in human development for centuries, as their first domestication dates back approximately 9,000 years ago. Learn more about how to support these versatile and reliable animals here.