Did you know that alpacas are cousins to the camel?
How about this: Alpacas are generally quiet and docile, but will resort to spitting if they become threatened. They are also herd animals who can become stressed and lonely without a companion animal of the same species.
These are other interesting tidbits about the lovable alpaca were taught over the weekend at the Appalachian Journey Farm, in the Rheatown/Limestone community.
The farm, located just off Jockey Road on Ralph Rhea Lane, is owned and operated by sisters Diane and Joan DuPont, who are originally from Wisconsin and bought the Greene County farm about 13 years ago.
In addition to petting the alpacas, visitors were also given an opportunity to watch spinning and weaving demonstrations using fleece from the farm’s animals. Kids could also take part in games and other activities.
Each September, on the last weekend of the month, the DuPonts, along with many other alpaca farmers across the nation, take part in the National Alpaca Farm Days Celebration. During the event, the farms, which are part of the Alpaca Owners Association, open their arms to visitors, allowing them to come visit the animals, which originated from South America, to learn more about them.
Like sheep, alpacas are regularly sheared. Their fleece is used to make things such as yarn, warm socks, gloves, blankets and scarves.
Among the visitors Saturday were Nikki Walle and her daughter, Willow, age 1, and her mother, Donna Willis, of Chuckey.
Young Willow was quite enamored with one of the alpacas inside the DuPont barn. In fact, she even lay her head down against one that was lying quietly in the barn lot.
“She’s usually scared of animals,” Willow’s mother said. “She may think, though, that they are just big teddy bears,” she added with a laugh.
The DuPonts currently have 42 alpacas on their farm. A few are owned by someone else and are being boarded there.
Joan DuPont said the alpacas are generally quiet animals, but they may occasionally make a humming sound in order to communicate with each other. Sometimes they will even emit a loud, shrill sound to send an alarm to the rest of the herd.
They generally eat about two pounds of grass and hay daily and chew a cud, like cows, she added.
DuPont also explained that the average height of an adult alpaca is about 3 feet at the withers, or base of the neck. They generally weigh between 135-150 pounds. They have soft padded feet with two distinct toes. Like humans, their nails need to be trimmed occasionally.