The alpaca originates from the South America, where it has been bred for its fleece for over 6,000 years. In the mists of time it was originally domesticated, as was the llama, from the wild species of the Vicuna and the Guanaco.
At the height of the Inca Empire both types were being selectively bred in large numbers to provide a very luxurious fibre, which in turn was processed into fine garments to be worn exclusively by the Inca nobility. In a society without money, textiles were currency and to breed excellence for the ruling nobility was possibly one of the main ways to gain grace and favour. These breeding programs were totally destroyed at the time of the Spanish Conquest of South America.
The colonists slaughtered the alpacas and llamas for food, introduced horses, replaced the alpaca herds with sheep and cattle and displaced the indigenous human population. The result of this bloody and apocalyptic process was that the alpaca was displaced to the high alti-plano above 4,000 metres and beyond, and the sophisticated husbandry and breeding programs disappeared into the mists of time along with many other facets of the Inca culture.
Since that time until quite recently the animals were bred for expediency rather than quality and the genetics of alpaca and Llama became intermixed producing, animals of lesser quality which carried the traits for all the camelid species. However, the animals survived, adapted and continue to provide sustenance, warmth, fuel and a surplus of fibre which could be turned into textiles.
There are two types of alpaca:
The Huacaya which has a teddy bear look and a voluminous springy fleece which should be bright , fine, without guard hair and arranged in tight identifiable crimped (wavy) locks..
The Suri which is the rarer and has a fleece that is without crimp, lustrous and hangs in straight twisted locks.