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Alpacas: Sweetly Aloof

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

It was a surprise to this inveterate goat-hugger that alpacas don't like to be touched. At all. They don't even touch each other. I watched an alpaca bunch up and leap forward when a herd mate brushed against her. I'd describe them as sweetly aloof. Whenever I turned my back, they'd crowd in on me, trying to get a better look at my camera and sniff at my hair. But when I turned around, they'd back off, looking embarrassed and apologetic. Approached, they'd gracefully exit stage right or left. No thanks, their demeanor said. I didn't see any spitting, though alpacas will spit like llamas. It's not actually spit, but a foul-smelling grass-and-bile mixture that's regurgitated, bleh. They spit mostly at each other, and very seldom at people, though they're highly individualistic on that and every other score. I noticed that many of the males had protruding lower incisors (they have no uppers), and drooping lips, and apparently that's from spitting a lot--the bile tastes bad to them so they make that face. It's called "sour mouth." The man alpacas made this face more than the girls.Not everything you read is true, Missy. We're just trying to look tuff.

Combined with all the fiber on their topknots, which looks a bit like a bad Beatle wig, the males had a rougueish look to my eye. Annie told me they're quite...ehm...avid, and young or gelded animals need to be kept away from them. In fact, all the males were together in a separate "bullpen." But I felt perfectly safe walking amongst them as Annie and Charlie fed them.
At first I was a bit put off when my visions of hugging alpacas had to vanish in a poof, but the more I watched them, the more fascinated I became, and I began to understand their great allure. Purely from a collection aspect, they come in beautiful colors and textures, and they're quiet and gentle and odorless and graceful and funny. Here's MAROON. Ever seen a maroon animal? Maybe a deep chestnut horse. But oh, my. And she's got what breeders call a "greasy luster." They have their own way of showing affection, sometimes as simple as approaching close to a person they favor.While I talked with Annie and photographed some alpacas in front of me, this trio was quietly approaching from behind. "Look, Charlie. Look what they're doing," Annie said, her voice warm with affection. She was as tickled as I was when I slowly turned around to see this:If an alpaca can look sheepish, they did. Oh, sorry. We were just creeping up on you, but now you've busted us. How embarrassing. Again, sorry.

They're very responsive and intelligent and idiosyncratic. They're cool camelids.
So I bought three Peruvian huacaya teddies as gifts, and brought them home for a photo shoot with Baker, who would love nothing better than an alpaca teddy to "parent." Nothing doing, Bacon. Nope. In your dreams. I drooled over a gray and tan alpaca blanket, and a white one made from cria fiber that was so incredibly soft and fine and light and warm that it felt like sunlight on my arm. Alpaca fiber is up to 4 times warmer than wool. It's a luxury fiber, and alpacas are a luxury animal. I'm glad the coyotes stay away, that Riverboat's animals are housed out of sight of any roadway, and that there are apparently no alpaca rustlers in southern Ohio. You can be sure I'll be back with pictures of new crias come July!Here ends the Alpaca Adventure. For now. Thank you so much, Annie and Charlie and Riverboat Alpacas, for your patience and grace. Good luck with the cria rush.

Niche farming: what a way to go. I'll be looking for more cool assignments from my favorite little nonprofit magazine.

13 comments:

Julie,

So this is the end. I have enjoyed learning about Alpacas and their distanced demeanor. When I needed a laugh this evening, the photo "alpaca can look sheepish" did it. Sorry they weren't huggable but I think in some time, you would have managed to get a few. Put those alpaca huggables far away from the eye kisser.

OK, the white male with "sour mouth" looks disturbingly like my paternal unit.

Love the apprehensive look on Baker's face in the first photo. He so clearly wants to kiss their eyes out and so clearly knows he can't... poor, poor Chet.

Thanks for the Alpaca lessons!

sigh....alpaca....thanks for the tour. I will now go knit.

I love the expressions on the faces of those alpacas.

I agree with Trixie--especially the pic of the three who sneaked up on you--they each have a different expression: the one on the left--oops, who me? no I wasn't looking at you. The one in the middle--ah, yuck, yup I wuz just looking at you. And the one of the right--I can't see; is there someone to look at?

I like the expressions, too--especially the 3 at the gate.
And, although they may spit at each other, not at people, I've had the misfortune of standing between 2 llamas--in their line of fire!
I can understand sour mouth!

Jules:

I wonder if there's some guy out there with the name Al Paca? I grew up with a girl in Iowa named Ann Hinga, you know. Just wondering....

Nice final alpaca post, BTW.

Very cute, especially their expressions, but I don't think I could raise animals that I couldn't hug and stroke.

Twisting the theme a bit from
Bt3's comment, I remember looking in our association's database and found a member whose name was, I kid you not, Virginia Ham.

I see your Virginia Ham and raise you a Crystal Chandal Lear.

After a week of sick kids and snow days, looking at yet another week of single parenting, my nom de plume (to steal one from Click and Clack) is Erasmus B. Dragon.

And a perennial favorite from the Natl. Lampoon Yearbook: Vic Svaporub.

Hi Julie,
I enjoyed your alpaca series so much I ordered myself some new yarn: 4 balls of Alpaca and Cashmere and 2 skeins of Alpaca and Silk. I haven't started knitting with them yet, but take them out of the box periodically just to hold them against my face and sigh. Wonderfully soft yarn.

Those are beautiful animals! I do worry that they don't have some kind of Great Pyrenees or other kind of guardian dog to protect them from potential alpaca molesters though. Hopefully they won't have any trouble. I love that last photo of the baby alpaca with its mother. So cute! I can see how a person could fall in love with them. The three who were sneaking up on you were totally adorable. Like teenagers caught in the act.
:-)

Hi Julie,
New to your blog ( via Drawing the MotMot, another favorite place ) and can see why Debby features your blog on hers.
I am smitten by your animals and your writings and descriptions.
The baby alpacas- oh my gosh they are just as you described.
It appears that you've made your home the sweet slice of the natural world that is ours for the appreciation.

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