Alpaca show features competition, education

West Texans are generally no strangers to livestock, but a herd of unusual South American beasts made a stop in Amarillo this weekend (Dec. 14 â?? 15).

Alpacas are a cousin of llamas and are bred for their prized fleece. The animals originated in the Andes Mountains, and have been domesticated for millennia. They were imported to the U.S. and Canada in 1984, and today, there are about 170,000 alpacas in the United States.

Judges evaluated animals based on many factors, but in the end, it all came down to the animalsâ?? fleece â?? the color, density, composition, and other qualities.

â??Most of the animals here that are competing and winning ribbons â?? you can compare their fleece to cashmere,â?? explained Stacie Chavez, one of the event's organizers. "Itâ??s a very fine, naturally breathable fiber, and in the world market, anything under 20 micron â?¦ is worth about 38 to 42 dollars a pound.â??

Chavez went on to say one of the main purposes of the event is public education, so attendees are encouraged to ask breeders about the animal, and with a keeper's permission, even approach and pet them, as alpacas are generally very docile creatures.

If youâ??d like to learn more about the Hi-Plains Alpaca show or alpacas in general, follow the links attached to this story.