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Called pacocha in Quechua, the Inca language, the alpaca has a small and more curved silhouette than the llama, while its forehead features a classic tuft of fiber. The alpaca cannot be differentiated by color, as it comes in a wide range of hues. It stands up to 1.50 meters high and weighs 7 kg at birth, growing to a maximum weight of 64 kg. The animal takes 343 days to whelp, and like the llama, the female alpaca can mate at a year old.
In general, alpacas have more and better-quality fiber than llamas, and come in two varieties: Wakayo and Suri. The Wakayo has dense and spongy fiber which grows over nearly all of its body, leaving only its face and legs covered with short hairs. The Suri alpaca, meanwhile, features lank, long and silky fibers which can hang down 15 cm. The alpaca is shorn with shears or scissors generally every two years, although they can be shorn every year regardless of the time of year. Breeders can obtain 1.7 kg of fiber from every animal they shear. The diameter of the fiber is generally 25.5 microns. However, the diameter of the fiber is in direct relation to the age of the animal. Commercially speaking, the finest fiber to be found in Peru is Baby Alpaca, which is extremely soft and fine.
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