Alpacas are native to the high plateaus of the Andes in South America.
They are part of the camelidae family, which includes the llamas of South America and the camels of Africa and Asia.
Alpacas have been domesticated for more than 5,000 years. Incan people reserved the luxurious fleece for royalty and involved the animals in religious ceremonies.
The British textile industry popularized the fleece in the mid-1800s.
An adult can produce about 3 to 6 pounds of top-quality fiber and about the same amount of lesser fiber each year.
The fiber comes in at least 22 natural colors and can be dyed.
Alpaca fleece is warmer than wool, not prickly and has no lanolin, which makes it hypoallergenic.
On the Net: www.alpacainfo.com
Sources: Alpaca Owners and Breeders Association