NILES - ''Chill'' pretty much describes the temperament of alpacas, their owners say.
''They are very relaxing animals and for the most part, not very high strung,'' said Lorilee Fish, president of the Ohio Alpaca Breeders Association and alpaca farmer in LaGrange. ''They are easy to work with and are easy to care for.''
And they don't smell as bad as other types of livestock, she said.
On Saturday and Sunday, the easy-going, sometimes timid, less nasal offensive alpaca was fully on display at Alpaca Fest at the Eastwood Expo Center. About 260 animals from 78 farms in Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Michigan were there to compete, and give those not so familiar with the fleecy cousin of the camel an opportunity to learn about them.
''I've heard about them,'' said Bill Murphy of Niles. ''They just seem like such a cool animal. They are different, they are friendly. They look like they could make a good house pet, but they (owners / breeders) said no.''
Alpacas originated in the mountains of Peru, Chile and Bolivia, and there are two types: the Huacaya, the more common, has a fluffy, poofy-type fleece; and the Suri, which has fiber that grows down and resembles more of a ''dreadlock''-type fleece known as locks.
Tribune Chronicle / Ron Selak Jr.
Jean Countryman of Salem, left, tries to coax her grandson, Kayson, 18-months-old, to touch an alpaca Sunday during Alpaca Fest at the Eastwood Expo Center in Niles. Kayson was excited about the fleecy animal, but he was a little suspicious, too.
Weighing on average 150 to 165 pounds and standing about 5 feet tall at the head, the alpaca is in the same family as the camel and llama, but is smaller.
Bob McClurg and his wife, Lynn, raise 31 alpaca and one ''guard llama'' that goes by the name of Omar at the Clarks Mills, Pa., farm, Morning Sky Farm. For the festival, they brought just one, a mellow male named Taddeo.
''The animals are easy to handle,'' said Bob McClurg, likening their fleece to a ''buttery soft'' feel and having the quality of cashmere.
Sunburst Alpacas, 7600 state Route 46, Cortland
Huacayas - 14 males and 18 females
Accoyo Double Stuff Farm, 2962 Sodom Hutchings Road, Fowler
Suris - 2 males and 5 females
Huacayas - 11 males and 20 females
Tobin Alpaca Farm, 2860 Tobin Lane, Cortland
Huacayas - 5 males and 8 females
SOURCE: Ohio Alpaca Breeders Association
What is an alpaca?
Originating in the mountains of Peru, Chile and Bolivia more than 6,000 years ago, an alpaca is a fleeced animal that comes in multiple colors, including white, black, gray, brown and many colors in between.
There are two distinct breeds, each with a unique fiber. The Huacaya is more prevalent and has a fluffy "teddy bear" fleece appearance, while the Suri has a unique "dreadlock" fleece quality, with the fiber handing alongside the body. The alpaca is cousin to the llama, but is smaller, and has finer fleece characteristics.
On average, an alpaca weighs around 150 to 165 pounds, and is about 5 feet tall at the head.
Source: Ohio Alpaca Breeders Association
Lynn McClurg prefers another description.
''I like to say cashmere is the quality of alpaca,'' she said Sunday while tending to Taddeo.
Alpaca are typically sheared once a year, generally sometime around May, for the fiber that can be used for clothing like blankets and scarves or yarn. The fleece can be sold in bulk or made into a product and resold by the breeder who can trace the product to the alpaca.
Also, because the alpaca is a herding animal, owners typically own more than two animals, Fish said.