Alpaca and the wings of history

Alpaca (Vicugna pacos), member of Camelidae, has been kept as domestic animal at least for 6 000 years. From fossil finds we now know that smaller ancestral forms lived in North America 50 000 years ago. When climate warmed some of these animals migrated to South America and even to Asia approximately 5 million years ago. After last ice age the camelids of North America went extinct. On Andes (Peru, Bolivia and Chile) animals of South America evolved into vicuña and guanaco, wild ancestors of alpaca and llama.

Prehistoric hunter gatherers soon noticed the value of alpaca's forefather. Animals were captured, tamed and bred; vicuña became alpaca and guanaco llama.

This big eyed beast has something majestic in its posture which must have helped Peru’s Inca culture to recognize them as royal animals. Inca rulers rewarded their aristocracy with textile, that were also used as payments. Producing woolen clothes was task of crown and Incas bred alpaca purely for their fine wool. Remnants of knitwear, which were born in the result of skilled breeding program, can be found in archaeological excavations. Excavations have also found out that some of the animals were sacrificed for gods.

Breeding skills of alpaca and llama were nearly lost when Spanish conquered countries in the 1530s. Conquistadors brought their own domestic animals with them and drove the native population and their animals to higher located barer areas and thinner air. Alpacas ability to survive in those conditions was due to its unique physiology.