Alpacas are herbivores that are native to the mountainous regions of South America. They are related to vicunas, llamas as well as camels, within the family of camelids. While alpacas can spit, they do not readily do so. Although like any animal, they each have their own personalities and temperaments. In general, they tend to resort to spitting and kicking as a last resort toward humans. However, they are more likely to spit on another alpaca. For what it's worth, I've been spit on (at a petting zoo and was in the line of fire). They are herd animals and tend to be pretty skittish. However, some can be very friendly and curious. I've met alpacas that will come right up to you and give you a sniff (kisses!!!) and others who will run away from anyone they are unfamiliar with.
There are two types of alpaca, the Suri (Sur-ree) which has long fine fleece and almost look like a shaggy dog. The other type, and the more popular is Huacaya (wah-kai-ya) who look like fluffy teddy bears with dense and fluffy fiber. Both, in my opinion are very cute! Baby alpaca are called Cria. They come in a variety of colors from white, cream, different shades of brown, black, and my favorite, gray!
Alpacas are entirely domesticated. There are no known wild alpacas, as the animals were bred for their fiber.
Alpacas are shorn yearly for their fiber. It's very good for the animal because they can easily overheat in the summer. Alpaca fiber is hypoallergenic and is very soft! It's also flame-resistant! Alpaca gloves, socks, scarves and hats are very popular. Alpaca fiber is also used in crafts! I also own a number of needle felted alpaca animals and alpaca figurines made of alpaca fiber. Suri fiber is a very popular material for Asian ball jointed doll wigs as of late as well!
Alpacas communicate by humming. Try humming at an alpaca for cute responses (or no response, lol). Sometimes I get kisses. They will also make a shrill high-pitched honking/squeaking noise from their nose if they spot a threat to the herd. A threat could be anything from a fox, to a cat, or dogs.
Alpacas do not have upper teeth, just lower teeth that jut outward. They have a soft pallet on the top. It's common to see alpacas chewing away. Alpacas also use a communal dung pile.
Because they are herd animals, you really should not own just one. It's recommended to have at least two or three to start with. Alpaca breeding used to be more popular and lucrative to those interested in it. However, these days, there is an abundance of alpaca farms worldwide. Still, champion alpacas known for their fleece, color, and lineage can go for a pretty penny (up to $500,000 USD).
If you should come across alpacas at a petting zoo, a farm, or at alpaca shows, they do not like to have their heads patted in general. It's better to pet their back. I know it's hard to resist their puffy little heads, but they will thank you. This is especially the case if they are friendly enough to approach you. Do be careful as some owners do not like their alpacas touched. Always ask. Generally, if they are at a petting zoo, it's safe to bet they are safe to pet or be fed (if feeding is allowed).