The ancestors of today's camelids evolved in North America between 9 and 11 million years ago, and speard to South America 3 million years ago. They are descended fromthe wild VICUNA, whose fibre was greatly prized amongst the Incas. Unfortunately, the Spanish Conquest was responsible for desroying many alpacas and vicunas, as well as the Incan civilisation. Alpacas span the borders of PERU, CHILE and BOLIVIA.
Alpacas are one of the camelid species. There are four species of South American camelid: LLAMAS and ALPACAS which are domesticated and VICUNA and GUANACO which remain wild and protected. All four are found mainly in PERU in the Andes, with smaller numbers in Chile and Bolivia.
There are two types of Alpaca: HUACAYA (pronounced wa-ky-ya) and SURI.
The huacaya appearance is due to its fibre growing vertically out from its skin in small bundles with a tight crimped wave which makes the fleece sit vertically off the skin giving it a "Teddy Bear" look.
The Suri appearance is due to its fibre growing out of the skin in bundles/locks without any crimped wave. The suri locks twist and hand down along the flank of the alpaca. The fibre at its best is akin to silk.
There are believed to be approximately 35,000 alpacas in the UK.