Alpaca Qand A
Adriana Siddle asked me some questions about alpacas on Face Book, and since I hate the fact that things on Face Book are wasted where hardly anybody can see them I thought I'd post here as well.
So about these alpacas of yours —
Do they live in your house? Do they smell nice? What language do they speak? And are they loving creatures?
They smell wonderful. That was a surprise to me. We'd have got them even if they smelled like e.g. sheep.
They don't live in the house, although some alpacas do. I'd like it if they did, but they wouldn't really. They're pretty uncomfortable whenever they haven't got escape routes from predators (even imaginary predators). And they'd break things. They are naturally toilet trained, though (from birth! ha! vastly superior species), so that's one problem we wouldn't have.
What language do they speak? Mostly they speak alpaca sign language, which involves a lot of use of ears and tails. Occasionally they "murmur", which is like a quiet mooing. And they can do various other things, like spitting. They're very multimodal.
Are they loving creatures? They're VERY interactive, very intelligent and with very long memories for other people (alpacas, humans, dogs, … so for example they hate most dogs with a passion but can [supposedly] form mild friendships with individual dogs, which I find pretty amazing), but they're not really loving in a one-on-one way like humans are. They prefer to interact in a herd. They like to spend 24 hours a day close to each other but not too close — they don't like cuddling. And they much prefer interacting with each other to interacting with humans. So in a lot of ways they're just like other herd animals. But then unlike any of the other herd animals I ever have anything to do with they're very intelligent. We're talking dog level intelligent. And just when you thought you'd understood them in terms of other species, they're MEGA-inquisitive. Cat level inquisitive. So it's all a bit weird.