Claire Fallen, of Ardgowan School, asks :-

Why do alpacas spit?

Fraser Hill, an alpaca specialist and Veterinary Pathologist with the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries' Batchelar Animal Health Laboratory, Palmerston North, responded.

Alpacas spit as a means of self-defense from each other and from other animals.

As well as spitting alpacas are able to kick with their hind legs. Usually alpacas will only spit or kick if they or their young are threatened, as normally they are very friendly. They have the ability to regurgitate grass from the rumen (storage stomach), as do all ruminants (cud chewers), so they can rechew it later or use it for defense. The chewed grass and saliva can be sprayed in a wide arc and is very smelly. While you are wiping it from your eyes the alpaca has a chance to escape.

The alpaca is from South America where it usually lives high in the Andes mountains. It has a thick fleece of very fine wool to cope with the harsh, cold climate. They have long legs and necks and are fast runners. Their natural enemies in the Andes include foxes, pumas and eagles. They are farmed for their fleece and meat by the people of the region. Alpacas were imported into New Zealand in the 1980's and are farmed for their fleece production and as pets.