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About Alpacas

The Alpaca is a species of South American camelid, similar to, and often confused with the llama. However, alpacas are often noticeably smaller than llamas. The two animals are closely related, and can successfully cross-breed.

It is believed that the alpaca and the llama were domesticated from the wild species vicuna and guanaco over 6000 years ago. The alpaca was developed primarily as a fleece producing animal.

Male alpacas are called macho, females are hembra, and baby alpaca are cria.

There are two breeds of Alpaca; the Suri alpaca and the Huacaya alpaca.

Huacaya alpaca

The huacaya appearance is due to its fibre growing vertically out of 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 huacaya fibre is more akin to a woollen process of manufacture.

Suri alpaca

The suri appearance is due to its fibre growing out of the skin in bundles/locks without any crimped wave. This makes the suri locks twist and hang down along the flank of the alpaca giving it an appearance much like a Wensleydale sheep. The suri fibre at its best is akin to silk and lends itself to the worsted process of manufacture. It is seeing increasing use in men’s suiting and coats.


Alpaca fibre is one of the most luxurious fibres in the world. It comes in 22 officially recognised colours and every shade in between.

Its most remarkable quality is its softness alpaca fibre is inherently soft. This is due to the fact it has less scales on each individual fibre, compared to sheep’s wool which has many, and more prominent scales on each individual fibre. (Suri alpaca have less scales than huacaya alpaca so their fibre is even softer.) Even at its coarsest, alpaca is inherently softer than sheep’s wool and often a certain percentage of alpaca fibre is added to sheep’s wool during the woollen process to enhance the handle or feel.

The lack of scales and smoothness of the fibre also gives alpaca a natural brightness as the smoother surface reflects the light better. Suri alpaca (because it has less scales) reflects the light like a mirror and is renowned for its deep lustre, as well as its luxuriously smooth handle.


Commonside Alpaca are breeding Huacaya alpaca as they produce a dense soft crimpy fleece and it is our aim is to improve our gene pool to produce the best fibre possible. Our carefully controlled breeding program will occasionaly mean we have alpaca available for new homes.