John & Susan Merrell
41390 Hwy 226
Scio, OR 97374
503-394-3790
503-551-7219 (cell)
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Feet

Alpaca feet are unlike hooves like horses, cattle, sheep or goats. Their feet have unique structure which enables them to be very sure-footed and cause minimal damage to the environment.
foot pads
Green arrows pointing to the toenails. Yellow arrows pointing to the pads.  Left: Side view. Right: Bottom view.

Each foot is made up of two toes (the third and fourth digits) which have a toenail and pad. The toenails extend off the front of each toe and curve to point towards the ground. The toenails will need to be trimmed occasionally if the alpaca does not wear them down naturally.

Most of the bottom surface of the foot is composed of the pad. The pad is very similar to a dog's pad. The alpaca's pad is larger and not quite as rough as a dog's. This pad enables alpacas to have more sensation and better contact with the ground than any animal with hooves, thus making them more sure-footed. Since the pad is softer than a hoof, alpacas cause much less damage to the environment. It will take an alpaca much longer to wear a path than a horse, cow, sheep or goat.

The alpaca has three phalanges per digit just like in our own fingers and toes. The second (P2) and third (P3) phalanges are parallel to the ground to provide the framework for the foot. Unlike many other livestock who only walk on the third phalanx (P3), alpacas walk on both the second phalanx (P2) and the third phalanx (P3). The first phalanx (P1) is at a 45 to 50 degree angle with the ground. This bone emerges from the foot to make up the pastern. It creates the fetlock joint when it meets the metacarpals (front limbs) or metatarsals (hind limbs).

The unique anatomy of their feet make alpacas easy to keep and easy on the land.  Trimming nails is far easier than hooves, and pastures and paddocks are subject to much less wear.

 
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"Manufactures from their hair more resemble silk than woolen stuffs, and some of those made of the Alpaca fleece, are quite black, without having been dyed. It has been a matter of surprise to many, that they are not naturalized in this country, as the climate would not be an obstacle to success. The demand, however, for their produce so much, increases, that it is very probable they may at some future time become denizens of our mountainous districts..."

R. Lee
Anecdotes of the Habits and Instinct of Animals (1852)
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