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News Releases Archive (Prior to 2011)

College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences


Smart Stuff with Twig Walkingstick: Alpacas (for the week of Aug. 12, 2001)

July 24, 2001

Dear Twig: There’s a farm near my home that must have a hundred alpacas. What can you tell me about them? Lucky you, to have so many alpacas so close. They’re beautiful animals. Here’s what I can tell you: Alpacas are related to llamas. They’re smaller than llamas -- about half the size or less. And they’re sheared like sheep for their valuable “fiber,” or fleece. The fiber is luxurious. It’s used to make sweaters, blankets, mittens, gloves, scarves, hats and more. Ahhh. Alpacas come from high in the mountains -- the Andes of South America. They were domesticated from the vicuna, an endangered species that lives in the Andes. The first U.S. imports were in 1984. There are two general types of alpacas: the Suri, which has long, silky fiber and looks like it has dreadlocks; and the Huacaya (pronounced “wah-kie-ah”), which looks like a puffball with legs. Its fiber is fine and colorful. Did you know alpacas, llamas and vicunas are all related to camels? They’re part of the group known as “camelids.” And did you know alpacas can hum? To me it sounds like the song of a whale -- soft and mellow and haunting -- and folks who hear it find it gentle and calming. Hmmm. Twig "Smart Stuff with Twig Walkingstick," a service of The Ohio State University, is a weekly science column for kids. "Twig" is a bow tie-wearing cartoon walkingstick, a type of insect. He's the voice of the column and appears at the left in the hard-copy version. "Bob the Bug," Twig's pal, is a bald-headed bug of an unidentified type who doesn't say much and appears in the bottom-right corner. For more information or to receive "Twig" columns by mail or e-mail, contact Kurt Knebusch, 1680 Madison Ave., Wooster, OH 44691, (330) 263-3776, Hey Editor! Bill Shulaw, D.V.M., M.S., Department of Veterinary Preventive Medicine, Ohio State University, reviewed this column. Ohio State is proposing an International Camelid Institute, an education and service facility to be based at the university. Details are at A wav file of alpacas humming is at the web site of Magical Farms Alpacas, Litchfield, Ohio,

Kurt Knebusch
Bill Shulaw