Alpacas were a cherished treasure of the ancient Incan civilization and played a central role in the Incan culture that was located on the high Andean Plateau and mountains of South America. Alpacas were first imported to the United States in 1984. Alpacas are now being successfully raised and enjoyed throughout North America and abroad. There are two types of alpacas - the Huacaya and the Suri. The life span of the alpaca is about 20 years and gestation is 11.5 months. Alpacas eat grasses and chew a cud. They are about 36" tall at the withers and weigh about 150 pounds. They are gentle and easy to handle. Alpacas are safe; they don't bite or butt. Even if they did, without incisors, horns, hoofs or claws, little harm can be done. Cleanup is easy since alpacas deposit droppings in only a few places in the paddock. They require minimal fencing and can be pastured at 5 to 10 per acre.

Alpacas produce one of the world's finest and most luxurious natural fibers. It is clipped from the animal without causing it injury. Soft as cashmere and warmer, lighter and stronger than wool, it comes in more colors than any other fiber producing animal (approximately 22 basic colors with many variations and blends). This cashmere-like fleece, once reserved for Incan royalty, is now enjoyed by spinners and weavers around the world.

Alpaca owners enjoy a strong and active national organization. The Alpaca Owners and Breeders Association (AOBA) with a growing number of Regional Affiliates and AOBA sanctioned national committees addressing every aspect of the industry.

The Alpaca Fiber Cooperative of North America (AFCNA) accepts fleece from its members, and turns the precious textile into quality alpaca garments and products. Members benefit from a ready outlet for their fiber, while the cooperative works to increase awareness of and demand for this every day luxury.

The Alpaca Registry has been established to help ensure accurate records and has a state-of the-art system to document bloodlines. Alpacas must be blood typed in order to be registered. Virtually every alpaca in the U.S. is registered.

A Brief History

Alpacas have coexisted with humankind for thousands of years. The Incan civilization of the Andes Mountains in Peru elevated the alpaca to a central place in their society. The imperial Incas clothed themselves in garments made from alpaca and many of their religious ceremonies involved the animal. Museums throughout the Americas display textiles made from alpaca fiber.

The Spanish Conquistadors failed to see the value of alpaca fiber, preferring the merino sheep of their native Spain. For a time, alpaca fiber was a well-kept secret. In the middle 1800's, Sir Titus Salt of London, England rediscovered alpaca. The newly industrialized English textile industry was at its zenith when Sir Titus began studying the unique properties of alpaca fleece. He discovered, for instance, that alpaca fiber was stronger than sheep’s wool and that its strength did not diminish with fineness of staple. The alpaca textiles he fashioned from the raw fleece were soft, lustrous, and they soon began making their mark across Europe. Today, the center of the alpaca textile industry is in Arequipa, Peru; yarn and other products made from alpaca are sold primarily in Japan and Europe.

Outside of their native South America, the number of alpacas found in other countries is extremely limited. In fact, 99 percent of the world's approximately three million alpacas are found in Peru, Bolivia, and Chile.

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