Since ancient times, the south American Andes Mountains have been the ancestral home to the prized alpaca. Their fleece was cherished by members of the Incan civilization (referred to as "The Fiber of the Gods"), and their graceful herds of alpaca roamed the lush foothills and mountainous pastures. In the 17th century, Spanish conquistadors killed a large part of both the Incan and alpaca populations, forcing the retreating survivors to seek refuge in the high mountain plains known as the Altiplano. The high altitude and harsh landscape ensured only the hardiest of these creatures survived, and these ancestors of today's best bloodlines have provided a gene pool producing hardy, agile animals with dense, high quality alpacas into the United States and Canada, and they immediately became a beloved part of the North American landscape.
There are two different alpaca types, the suri and the huacaya. The suri has fiber that grows quite long and forms silky, pencil-like locks. The huacaya has a shorter, sense, crimpy fleece, giving it a very wooly apperance. Alpacas have soft padded feet, making them gentle on pastures, and they have no top teeth in the front. The average height of an alpaca is 36" at the withers, and they weight from 100 to 175 pounds.
Traditionally, alpacas were bred in South America for their fiber. Their fleece is softer, stronger and warmer (at the same weight) than sheep's wool. Alpaca fiber comes in 22 colors that are recognized by the textile industry, and there are many blends in addition to that. Alpacas are shorn for their wonderful fleece each year, which will produce 5 to 10 pounds of soft, warm fiber that is turned into the most luxurious garments in the world.