Alpacas in the buff
Endemic to the Andes region of South America, alpacas are a domesticated camelid species valued for their exquisite fiber, which is unique for its strength, softness, warmth and breathability.
To honor the adorable camelid, this Sept. 29-30 is being declared National Alpaca Farm Days by the Alpaca Owners and Breeders Association. Alpaca farms from all across America are opening their doors to visitors who want to meet and learn about alpacas. To get in on the fun, find an alpaca farm near you.
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A backlit alpaca named Wigeon waits to be judged at the British Alpaca Futurity Show being on March 11, 2011 at Warwickshire's Stoneleigh Park in Coventry, England. (Photo: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
Alpaca fur is one of the most desirable fibers on the market. Not only is it extremely soft and breathable, it's also flame-resistant, water-resistant, hypo-allergenic and comes in a wide range of natural hues. Alpaca hair also happens to be one of the most expensive fibers, but considering its benefits, the price is well worth it for people with allergies or knitting enthusiasts who are really into premium fiber goods.
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A young Peruvian girl rests with her baby alpaca named Carmelo near Colca Canyon, Peru. (Photo: Bruno Girin [CC BY-SA 2.0]/flickr)
There is no such thing as a wild alpaca because they were domesticated several thousands of years ago by the Moche people of northern Peru. During the reign of the Inca empire, alpacas played several vital roles for the Andean people, including food, fuel, clothing and transportation. Because of their tremendous value, the Incan government strictly controlled their use, which allowed alpacas to flourish and reach populations of tens of millions of individuals.
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It wasn't until the 1980s that South American countries started allowing the exportation of alpacas to other countries. Since then, hundreds of thousands of alpacas can be found on farms all across the globe.