Alpacas originate from the Altiplano (Spanish for high plain) in west-central South America. Spanning the borders of Peru, Chile and Bolivia, this area of the Andes averages nearly 4000 metres.
Alpacas are one of the camelid species, closely related to the llama. There are four species of South American camelid – Llamas (Lama glama) and alpacas (Vicugna pacos) are domesticated and vicuna (Vicugna vicugna) and guanaco (Lama guanicoe) remain wild and are protected species. All four are found mainly in Peru in the Andes, with smaller numbers in Chile and Bolivia.
There are two types of alpaca, huacaya (pronounced wa-ky-ya) alpacas and suri alpacas. Both can be found in Northern Ireland, however the majority of alpacas kept here are huacaya.