The last two – and smallest – of “The Not-So-Big Camelids” are the guanaco and vicuña. They, like their cousins the alpaca and llama, are native to the mountainous regions of South America. Though in the camelid family and chewers of cud (and let’s not forget spitters, too), they are not camels.
Guanaco (Lama guanacoe): The double-coated guanaco (also spelled “huanaco”) stands between 3.5 and 4 feet (107 and 122 cm) at the shoulder and weighs about 200 pounds (90 k). Guanaco fiber is considered second to only vicuñas with a micron count ranging from 14 to 18. It has a staple length around 2 inches (5 cm). (Pic source)
Vicuñas (Vicugna vicugna): Vicuñas are smallest member of this group, standing 36 inches (90 cm) high and weighing a little over 100 lbs (50 k). They produce a very valuable fiber (finer and softer than cashmere), and were nearly hunted to extinction 40-50 years ago. They too are double-coated with a soft undercoat and a longer-haired, harsher outercoat. Vicuña fibers ranges from 10 to 16 microns (compare to cashmere at 15 to 19 microns), and the staple length of their undercoat is about 1 inch (2.5 cm). Vicuñas are still poached. (Pic source)
I have never even touched vicuña hair, as years ago a spinning teacher warned that these animals frequently died from shock at shearing or poaching. I wondered if that were still true, so I checked: According to Sahley, Vargas & Valdivia (2007), “in spring, capture and live shearing of vicuñas can be biologically sustainable” (The Journal for the Society of Conservation Biology, Feb. 21(1):98-105). (For more about these delicate and endangered animals read , “Vicunas: Bearers of the Golden Fleece.”)