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The ALPACA belongs to the camelid family. Its appearance is close to the llama, but it is considerably smaller. It has a shoulder height of about three feet (90 cm) and weighs between 100 to 200 lbs (45 to 90 kg). The alpaca has straight ears. On the other hand, the llama's ears are banana shaped. The llamas are primarily used as packing animals, while the alpacas are a domesticated species mostly raised in South America for their fibres. Almost the entire population of the three million alpacas lives in Peru, Bolivia and Chile. They live in very high altitudes in the Andes, therefore producing a pleasantly fine, soft and warm fleece. The fibres are hollow, providing excellent insulating properties. They measure between 15 to 18 microns. 4 to 6 lbs. (2 to 2.5 kg) of fibres can be collected every year. Contrary to other camelids, the fibre is almost free of guard hair and can be used without further preparation. We distinguish two main types of alpacas: the HUACAYA with a shorter, crimpier fleece and the SURI with long, fine and lustrous fibres. In Peru, more than 52 natural colours are classified; in the U.S.A., where alpacas are a very popular domestic animal, 22 colours are registered.

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