Alpacas are the cute, smaller alternative to llamas. Many small homesteaders and farmers looking for profitable stock to keep on small acreage consider investing in them. What’s it like to keep alpacas? How smart are alpacas? In this article, we present interesting facts and frequently asked questions and answers about these charming creatures. Read on to learn more.
What You'll Learn Today
- Alpaca Basics For New Owners
- 1. How smart are alpacas?
- 2. Can you keep one alpaca as a pet?
- 3. Do alpacas get along with other animals?
- 4. Is it safe to handle alpacas?
- 5. Do alpacas ever bite or kick?
- 6. Do alpacas spit like llamas?
- 7. How old can alpacas get?
- 8. Are alpacas dirty and smelly?
- 9. How many breeds of alpaca are there?
- 10. What do alpacas eat?
- 11. Do alpacas eat a lot?
- Other Frequently Asked Questions
Alpaca Basics For New Owners
1. How smart are alpacas?
Alpacas are actually quite intelligent, and they are also very easy to handle and train. These bright, alert animals have a great deal of personality, and each one is unique.
In addition to being intelligent, alpacas are also calm and quiet. In their herds, they communicate with each other through subtle body postures, ear and tail positioning and quiet sounds, such as humming during quiet times and “orgling“ during mating.
2. Can you keep one alpaca as a pet?
Relationship is very important to these herd animals, and they should never be kept alone. If you’re going to have an alpaca, you need to have at least two more to keep it company.
Alpacas need to have some other animal as a friend. Alpaca may bond with a llama, but it’s much better to keep alpacas in trios of all the same gender. If you’re just keeping them as pets, three neutered males would be a good combination.
3. Do alpacas get along with other animals?
You can keep alpaca with llamas and with other ruminants such as goats and sheep that are of a similar size and temperament. A few alpaca kept with a herd of sheep or goats can act as protection against small predators such as foxes.
When kept as pets, alpaca may learn to get along with gentle, quiet small or medium sized dogs, but it’s always a good idea to supervise these interactions.
It is not advisable to run alpacas with large animals, such as horses, donkeys or cattle as the small, gentle alpaca may be injured.
4. Is it safe to handle alpacas?
These small, gentle animals are very safe and pleasant to deal with. They have soft, padded feet with nails rather than claws. They don’t have horns, and they don’t have top front teeth, so they cannot bite you and they won’t butt you.
5. Do alpacas ever bite or kick?
A well raised, humanely kept alpaca is unlikely to aggress. Sometimes the animals may kick back if you’re handling their hind feet, but since they don‘t have hooves, they are unlikely to do much harm.
An alpaca that is kept as a spoiled pet rather than as livestock may develop the bad habit of nipping or nibbling to get your attention.
6. Do alpacas spit like llamas?
Sadly, alpacas do spit occasionally. Most of the time, alpacas only spit at each other and not at people. They have very few other ways of defending themselves, so if they feel threatened they may spit their cud (partially chewed, regurgitated grass and feed).
This is smelly and unpleasant, but it will not hurt you. The best way to avoid it is to raise and treat your alpaca right so that it doesn’t ever feel threatened by you.
7. How old can alpacas get?
Generally speaking, a well kept alpaca can live to be about 20 years old. Some have lived to be nearly 30.
8. Are alpacas dirty and smelly?
When properly kept, alpacas are very tidy, and they do not have a strong odor.
9. How many breeds of alpaca are there?
There are two breeds, they are:
- Suri (SOO-ree)
- Huacaya (wah-KI-ah)
There are far more Huacaya than Suri. In fact, about 90% of all alpacas are Huacaya. Both of these domestic breeds were developed from wild, South American vicuña. There is no such thing as a wild alpaca.
10. What do alpacas eat?
Alpacas eat only vegetable matter. When kept in wide open spaces, they mostly graze on grass. They will also eat some tree branches and leaves, stems and bark. When kept in a farmyard setting, they eat hay and feed that is especially formulated for alpacas and llamas.
11. Do alpacas eat a lot?
When compared with other types of grazing animals, they actually eat very little. It only takes about three pounds of grass, hay and/or grain to feed a 125 pound alpaca daily.
Other Frequently Asked Questions
If you understand alpaca psychology (they are flight animals) and you are very patient and consistent, you can teach an alpaca to run obstacle courses and complete mazes, sit, fetch and a number of other fun and interesting tricks; however, it takes a long time because they are extremely cautious.
Clicker training seems to be non-threatening to alpacas. The use of food rewards is also very motivating for them. Punishment never works at all.
Yes! Alpacas are well suited to cart pulling. They are also very good for light packing when hiking, and they enjoy the time spent rambling around the outdoors with their people.
If you are good to your alpaca, it will like you! You can tell it likes you by its behavior. An alpaca who is happy to see you will naturally run to you. They often nuzzle people whom they like. If you are especially favored by an alpaca, it may hum to you as it would its baby.
Alpacas are surprisingly smart, and they remember all sorts of things for a very long time. This is why it is so important to treat your animals well, train them with rewards and positive reinforcement and never use punishment. If you treat an alpaca badly, it may never forget it. This will mean you will have problems handling that animal on an ongoing basis, forever!