Alpaca History

Alpacas were a cherished treasure of the ancient Inca civilization. They played a central part in the Incan culture that was located on the high Andean plateau and mountains of South America. Alpacas have been domesticated for some 6,000 years and produce a fine cashmere-like fleece, once reserved for Incan royalty.

With the Spanish conquest of the Incas came the almost total annihilation of the alpaca. This wonderful animal survived only because of its importance to the Indian people and its incredible ability to live at altitudes and under conditions which cannot sustain the life of other domestic animals.

Following the discovery of the fabulous qualities of alpaca fiber in the mid 1800’s, the alpaca regained its prominence. In recent times, Peruvians have sought to protect the Alpaca Industry. In 1827, Simon Bolivar (the South American Liberator) signed a decree to protect all camelids, which include alpaca, llama, guanaco and vicuna. Since then, alpacas have been treated as a unique and essential resource. Peru was the last South American country to open its borders to exportation and only 3,000 alpacas have actually left Peruvian soil. These animals are now being raised in countries such as the United States, Canada, and Australia, as well as others in Europe, and account for only 0.1% of the entire alpaca population in the world. Today, there is worldwide commerce in the alpaca and its products.

Alpacas were first imported into the United States in 1984. This was not, however, the first time alpacas made their home in North America. Many years ago, ancestors to the modern day alpacas roamed freely on the plains of central and south central United States. Over the years, some of these animals wandered northwest and across the land bridge between North America and Asia, finally evolving into the modern day Bactrin and Dromedary camels of Asia and Africa. Other ancient camelids headed south through Mexico and Central America settling in the countries we know today as Bolivia, Chile, and Peru. These animals evolved into the South American Camelids: alpaca, llama, guanaco, and vicuna.