Camel | Llama | Alpaca | Vicuña

Camel hair (WK)

The camel, an animal that easily reaches a height of 2-3 meters with a weight of more than 400 kilos, usually lives in flocks of twenty and can be found in all of Central Asia. The production of camel yarn comes mainly from China and Mongolia and in minor quantities from Egypt and Iran. A coat of camel hair is composed of a mane soft underwool or down hair on the belly of the animal. Each year the camel moults and begins to lose its hair in spring. The hair is obtained by combing using very small combs. The fleece is fine and soft, slightly curly and beige coloured. Baby camels, until they reach the age of one year, are blonde, almost white and their hair is extremely soft and highly prized, while the coats of adult camels are mainly reddish or light brown in colour. The protective outer coats of fibre may grow as long as 40 cm but is very coarse; the fine, shorter fibre of the insulating undercoat is 3 to 12 cm long, with an average fineness of between 17 to 23 microns. The coat of camel hair has excellent insulation properties; it is warm and comfortable and is used for manufacturing outdoor wear and knitwear garments. The coarsest coat of hair is that of the dromedary, which is used only for inner linings.

Llama wool (WL)

Llama, the largest South American camelid, lives in the Andes, in Peru and in Bolivia. The largest concentration of lamas are to be found in Bolivia, approximately three million, which corresponds to roughly about 85% of the world population of Llamas. The animals are shorn every two years and their hair classified according to its fineness and its colour, usually white, brown and black. The undercoat is very fine, soft, slightly curly, and warm with exceptional insulating properties. It reaches a fineness that varies between 22 and 26 microns, whereas the outer coat much coarser and can reach a length that varies between 13 and 26 centimetres. It is used to produce highly valued knitwear, jackets, coats and blankets.

Alpaca wool (WP)

Belonging to the camelid family, the Alpaca lives in the same region as the Llama but the largest population of these animals lives in Peru. Its fleece is externally rough and long but very fine, woolly and soft in its undercoat where the fineness of the fibre, slightly wavy with considerable lustre, is approximately 14 microns. The length of the fibre can vary between 8 and 15 centimetres. The shearing is done between November and March and yields about 2.5 kg for each female and about 4 kg for each male. The coat produced by a baby Alpaca (called a Cria) is even more sought after for its brilliance and lustrous qualities and is obtained by the first shearing of the lambs, which is done at the age of one year. The fleece contains no lanolin and is therefore hypoallergenic, and non-pilling. It can be white, beige, grey, brown and black, although its natural colours can be more than twenty.


Fotografia: De Christophe Meneboeuf - Personal work.More photos related to Peru & Bolivia on my photoblog:, CC BY-SA 2.5,

Vicuña wool (WG)

The vicuña is a camelid that is native to Peru, Bolivia, Chile and Argentina, and was decimated after the Spanish Conquest by over hunting because of its highly regarded wool fibres. It is now specie that is at risk of extinction and for this reason the trade of its fleece is subject to strict restrictions. The animals, which live freely, are captured and sheared, and then set free again after shearing. At present there is estimated to be about 180,000 exemplars that live mainly in Peru at high altitudes of between 4,000 and 6,000 meters. The tracking of vicuña products is guaranteed by CITES (Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species). Regarded as "the fabric of the gods" by the Incas (XIII-XVI century), it was reserved exclusively for the members of the royal family. The vicuña has an exceptionally fine and lustrous undercoat, measuring just 12 microns in diameter, and is therefore the thinnest of all the animal fibres that can be spun. Its particular characteristics of softness make it the most highly prized of all the fibres in the world of textiles. An adult vicuña produces approximately 250 grams of fleece every two years (a cashmere goat produces approximately 250 to 400 grams a year). It takes the fleece of 25 to 30 animals to make one overcoat, and a pullover requires about six. The fleece is a light cinnamon colour, slightly clearer around the chest area.