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Peru may be too far for a day trip, but Greenwichites can find Peruvian treasures right here in Connecticut. Round Hill Alpacas, some 100 miles away in Coventry, is home to 26 of these Andean camelids whose fiber makes silky, luxurious wool.
Meeting the source of your sweater is more exciting than it sounds. Alpacas are gentle, personable souls, as a visit to Round Hill farm quickly bears out. They’re not like their llama cousins, who can easily get peevish and aggressive. Alpacas let you come close and pet their long necks. Just be careful not to aim for the tops of their heads. Their sweet, long-lashed eyes give them great peripheral vision, but what these animals don’t see can alarm them and test their indulgence.
The farm’s owners, Randy and Cindy Hall (above and below), got into the alpaca business some seven years ago. Their vision? To found an inclusive farmstead living experience especially for individuals with developmental disabilities, such as their autistic son. The nonprofit they've founded and are developing is called the Creative Living Community of Connecticut. Alpacas are as curious about you as you are about them. If only New Yorkers were as friendly and trusting.
These social herd animals are happy to nosh treats right out of your palm. Just ask Noah Blum what it feels like. The 2½-year-old resident of Providence, Rhode Island will describe the tickle of the alpacas' rubbery upper gums and the soft nudge of their fur-covered lips. Noah is pictured below with his mom, Alessandra, and Randy Hall.
Two weeks ago Round Hill welcomed a new member of the herd. Born during the Olympics in Brazil, he was named Rio. Fun fact: the gestation period for alpacas is 11 1/2 months.
Noah and Rio say Olá. Guess where Noah was born? As chance would have it, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil! Noah's father, Joey, facilitates the encounter.
With names like Popcorn, Kahlúa and Pebbles, alpacas are a chromatic delight. The herd at Round Hill sport earthy tones from creamy eggshell and rosy grey to tawny russet and smokey charcoal.
Why hasn’t Hollywood come out with a major animation starring alpacas?
Maybe because they’re so adorably cartoon-like as is, it’d almost be redundant.
Not everyone is chill. Rusty, the Alpha male of the herd, gets his own enclosure. For good reason. Otherwise Macho Man and second-in-command Simon would go at it, and things could get ugly. To defend his privileged notch in the pecking order, a free-to-mingle Rusty would engage in spitting and fighting if not worse.
A hyper-cautious Rusty takes his time in approaching, but with Randy's coaxing he takes some grassy snacks. Note the erect ears. That's his short code for, "We're cool." Now look again at the photo above and see how Rusty's spear-shaped ears are cocked back, ready for action if need be. The positioning of his tail and head also speaks volumes. Alpacas are famous for communicating by humming, but their body language gets across important cues to keep life safe and ordered.
To top off our visit, we followed Cindy, Randy and two alpacas to the F.A.R.E Market in the nearby town of Willimantic, CT. After lunch (no hay pellets for us, thanks), we stocked up on socks and, of course, souvenirs!
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