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Definition: alpaca from The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

The alpaca is related to the llama, and has been known since 200 BC. The main breeding centre is around Lake Titicaca on the borders of Peru and Bolivia. It is sheared every two years and may provide up to 5 kg/11 lb of fine wool.

(Image © RM)

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alpaca


Summary Article: alpaca from The Columbia Encyclopedia
Alpaca
Image from: alpaca (1) in Merriam-Webster's Collegiate(R) Dictionary

(ălpăk'Ә), partially domesticated South American mammal, Lama pacos, of the camel family. Genetic studies show that it is a descendant of the vicuña. Although the flesh is sometimes used for food, the animal is bred chiefly for its long, lustrous wool, which varies from black, through shades of brown, to white. Flocks of alpaca are kept by indigenous people in the highlands of Bolivia, Chile, and Peru. They feed on grasses growing close to the snow line, and they require a pure water supply.

The Incas had domesticated the alpaca and utilized its wool before the Spanish Conquest, but subsequently the alpaca and the llama were extensively hybridized, leading to a gradual reduction in the amount of high quality alpaca wool. Exporting of alpaca wool to Europe began after Sir Titus Salt discovered (1836) a way of manufacturing alpaca cloth. Breeding alpacas is a small but growing industry in the United States, Canada, and some other non-Andean nations.

Alpacas are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Mammalia, order Artiodactyla, family Camelidae.

The Columbia Encyclopedia, © Columbia University Press 2017

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