Alpacas are funny looking mammals, and are very cute when they are young. In a mixed herd they look like sheep that have been stretched at the neck, but in actual fact they are very different animals indeed.
These charming , rather large babies develop some very interesting behaviours and traits and are often mistaken for similar looking animals that are related.
In this post, we take a look at a selection of fascinating baby alpaca facts, as well as answer some of the most common FAQs. There may even be a few pictures of these cute babies too!
Fascinating Baby Alpaca Facts
Baby Alpacas Are Called Crias
A baby alpaca is called a ‘cria‘, and they are usually born as single births, without siblings. As they grow up, male alpacas are called ‘machos‘ and females are called ‘hembras‘. A group of baby alpacas may be called a ‘litter‘, but this is only really correct for related siblings, on the odd occasion where twins occur.
The collective noun for a group of alpacas in general, is a ‘herd‘ of alpaca.
Alpaca Crias Can Stand On Their Own Feet Shortly After Birth
Like some other large herding animals like baby sheep, cows or baby deer, a baby alpaca cria can stand and hold its weight shortly after birth. It may take anywhere between 20 minutes to a couple of hours, but this is remarkably quick.
It takes them some time to master balance and to walk competently, but by standing up early they start to develop the muscles in their legs that they will need to become competent walkers and runners.
Baby Alpacas Are Related To Camels
While they may have a coat that is more similar to a sheep, the alpaca is actually related to the Camel. Their scientific name of the alpaca is (Lama pacos) and they, along with llamas are species of South American ‘camelid’ mammal.
While alpacas and camels are of the same family, they live very far apart in the wild. Camels are found on the other side of the world in Asia and Africa.
Sheep on the other hand, are of the ‘Bovidae‘ family, though their coat is very similar to alpaca’s in both appearance and in touch.
Baby Alpacas Play Well With Others
Where baby alpacas are kept as livestock, they integrate very well with other animals. They are often kept in flocks with sheep, baby goats and other similar animals like llamas.
In mixed herds baby alpacas live well with others. Youngsters will play and feel comfortable with the young of other species in the herd. They will soon learn that family goes beyond those of their own species.
Alpacas are closely related to llamas. Close enough that crossbreeding can and does happen successfully. When it does, the babies are known as baby llapacas.
Baby Alpacas Learn Many Habits And Vocalizations
Baby alpacas develop some really interesting habits and behaviours that are curious to observe. They learn early to communicate with their mother, through a variety of vocalizations, and will recognise their parents voice.
When threatened they can make a shrieking sound, and fighting males will let out an almighty scream. They also have noises they make when excited, or when playing. They will often make a humming sound when they are comfortable or content.
While llamas are more likely to spit for any given reason, alpacs will only do so when they feel threatened or distressed. They will also do it when competing with rivals for a mate or for food.
Baby Alpacas Learn Some Interesting Toilet Habits
Baby alpacas grow up learning to all use the same area for toileting. They don’t just randomly deposit faeces wherever they may be, like horses or cows. They all seem to share the same area where they will defecate and create a large dung pile.
The advantage of this, is that it helps to control the spread of parasites, and reduces faces being trampled all over the place. Interestingly, females that share a dung pile tend to be messier than males. They have been observed standing in a line and all going at the same time. Males on the other hand will make a neater pile.
Baby Alpaca FAQs
What Is The Lifecycle Of A Baby Alpaca?
Once conceived, baby alpacas will gestate for between 242 and 345 days in their mothers womb. Birthing occurs over a few hours, and within the first hour of birth the alpaca will be able to stand up and take its first steps. Births usually result in one offspring, though twins do occur on occasion.
Baby alpacas will feed from their mothers for around 6 months. Shorter if the mother has distress or illness, and sometimes longer up to 8 months if needed. By this time the alpaca will be weaned and growing into maturity.
Females take 12 to 15 months to reach sexual maturity and males take around double that, up to 36 months.
In the wild, they can expect to have a life span of around 15- 20 years, slightly longer up to 25 years in captivity.
How Big Do Baby Alpacas Grow?
Baby alpacas do a lot of growing from the minute they are born. As babies, they can weigh as little as 6 to 9 kg and can grow as large as 55-70 kg as they mature into adults.
They are the smallest animals in the Camelidae family, even when compared to llamas. They usually grow to a height between 3.5 to 4 feet (40-48 inches) tall.
What Do Baby Alpacas Eat?
Baby alpacas drink their mothers milk from birth until up to 6 months when they should be fully weaned. After this, they move onto a herbivorous diet. They will eat mostly grass, leaves and occasionally bark.
They are pseudoruminants, which means they have several chambers to their stomach, much like ruminants. However, they only have three chambers whereas other ruminants like baby sheep or cows, have four.
This type of stomach allows them to easily break down roughage to extract all the nutrients they need.
Where Do Baby Alpacas Live?
The Alpaca is native to South America, and in particular to the Andes mountains at elevations up to 4,800 meters. They used to be widespread across Bolivia and much of the Incan territory, but almost became extinct once the Spanish arrived. Populations were later to be thriving with indigenous people in the mountains.
The habitat in which they live, is usually mountainous, elevated marshy land. While they are native to South America, they are also kept commonly as livestock on farmland across much of Europe, the USA and Oceania.
Around 99% of the population though, are believed to still live in South America.
What Are The Predators Of Baby Alpacas?
In their native Andes region of South America, baby alpacas are commonly preyed on by canids such as domestic dogs, coyotes and maned wolves. Regional foxes, Andean condors and pumas are also a threat to both baby and adult alpacas.
Where Does The Name Alpaca Come From?
The world alpaca has Spanish origins. Given that these animals are native to South America, that should come as no surprise. It originates from the Aymaran word ‘allpaca‘ The Aymara are an ancient and native population in the Bolivian Andes.
While it is known that the Inca also had a relationship with alpacas, there is no Incan word identified for the animal.
Are Baby Alpacas And Llamas The Same?
No, baby alpacas and llamas are not the same. While they might be similar, and are both of the family ‘Camelidae‘, they are in fact two different animals.
They are closely related enough to crossbreed and are often found living together in mixed herds, but alpacas are usually significantly smaller than llamas.