Alpacas are members of the camelid family, which includes alpacas, Dromedary and Bactrian camels, llamas, vicunas, and guanacos.
Alpaca are indigenous to the Andes Mountains of South America, primarily in Peru, Chile and Bolivia. There they developed into hardy animals with thick fleece to withstand the cold, living on sparse vegetation. Alpacas are smaller than llamas, and are therefore not used as pack animals like llamas.
Alpacas are bred primarily for their soft luxurious fleece, which is very similar to cashmere. There are two types of alpacas, the suri (su-ree) and the huacaya (wah-kai-yuh). The suri has fiber that grows quite long and forms what looks like dreadlocks. The huacaya, which is by far the larger population of alpacas, has a shorter and more dense fleece. This fleece has a crimp, or waviness, similar to sheep’s wool, but there is no lanolin, or greasiness as found in sheep’s wool.