The Alpaca (Vicugna pacos) is a domesticated, llama-like species found throughout South America. Alpaca herds are found at high elevation levels in the Andes throughout Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, and northern Chile.
Although the Alpaca looks like a llama at fist glance there are several differences between both species. First, the Alpaca is much smaller in size by about 1-2 feet. Alpacas are also bread solely for the high quality and quantity wool while llamas were bread as a pack animal.
Alpacas have been bread for thousands of years and have been displayed in ancient art of the Moche people from northern Peru. There are also no alpacas living in the wild.
Each alpaca produces a large quantity of wool that is soft, durable, and lustrous. Although quite similar to the wool from sheep, Alpaca wool does not contain any lanolin which makes it well suited for people sensitive to certain natural fibers. Alpaca wool is therefore said to be hypoallergenic (causing few alergic reactions). The lack of lanolin has the disadvantage that the wool is much less water repellent. Alpaca wool comes in over 50 natural shades ranging from white, brown, black, and silver-gray. In the fabric industry alpaca wool is often times mixed with cotton, and mohair.