It was once thought that, like llamas, alpacas were descended from wild guanacos. However, recent thinking is that they may have been domesticated from a different relative – the vicuna.
Alpacas are herd animals and mainly bred for their thick coats, which, like wool, can be woven into a wide variety of clothing and textiles. They are usually sheared once a year in the spring and one animal can produce 5 to 10 pounds of fiber. Being from the highest parts of the Andes, the Alpaca is a hardy animal and can endure extreme conditions. Its thick fleece is designed to keep it warm and snug in the harshest weather.