Alpacas herald from South America, but are increasingly being found on farms in the Southern Appalachians.
Alpacas are in the same family as llamas and camels, hence the resemblance. They’re the oldest domesticated animal on the planet. The first alpacas came to the United States in 1984, when a group of North American investors traveled to South America to scout out the best of the breed. Since alpacas don’t taste very good and can’t carry much weight, their value lies in their incredibly soft, luxurious coats used to make fiber.
Turns out, South Americans didn’t want competition from alpaca breeders in the United States. So today, there’s a ban in place that prohibits the importation of alpacas to this country. Every alpaca here today is a descendant of the original group brought back a little more than 20 years ago.