Alpaca is a South American mammal closely related to the llama and vicuña. Partially domesticated, the alpaca possibly was derived from the wild guanaco. The natural habitat of the alpaca is the Andes in South America. It is most commonly kept in flocks by the Native Americans in the highlands of Peru and Chile.
The alpaca, a surefooted animal, is smaller than the llama, has longer, softer wool, and ordinarily is not used as a beast of burden. Like the llama and camel, alpacas sometimes spit. After 11 months’ gestation the female gives birth to one offspring. The young have short wool until they mature.
Flocks of alpacas graze almost wild on high plateaus, 4267 to 4877 m (14,000 to 16,000 ft) above sea level. At shearing time the Native Americans drive them to the villages and clip off about 20 cm (about 8 in) of the wool. The alpaca provides white, gray, or yellow wool, although the black and dark brown fibers are especially valued. The fiber is elastic and strong and is straighter and silkier than sheep’s wool. Although the flesh of the alpaca is palatable, the animal is kept primarily for its wool, from which a fine cloth is made.
Scientific classification: The alpaca belongs to the family Camelidae. It is classified as Lama pacos.
Aging refers to irreversible biological changes that occur in all living things with the passage of time, eventually resulting in death. Although all organisms age and rates of aging vary considerably. Fruit flies, for example, are born, grow old, and die in 30 or 40 days, while field mice have a life span of about three years. Dolphins may live to age 25, elephants to age 50, and Galápagos tortoises to 100. These life spans pale in comparison to those of some species of giant sequoia trees, which live hundreds of years.
Among humans, the effects of aging vary from one individual to another. The average life expectancy for Americans is around 75 years, almost twice what it was in the early 1900s. Although some people never reach this age while others are beset with illnesses if they do, more and more people are living healthy lives well into their 90s and older. Geriatrics is a medical specialty concerned with the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of diseases in the elderly. The study of the different aging processes that occur among individuals and the factors that cause these changes is known as gerontology.
Akita (dog) is a breed of Japanese working dog, used both as a family guard dog and for hunting. Ancestors of the Akita date to antiquity, and this dog still retains a spiritual significance in Japan. Small statues of akitas are presented at the birth of a child or when a person is ill to express wishes for health and happiness. Ownership was formerly restricted to royalty and the ruling aristocracy, with special provisions for care and feeding and a special vocabulary to be used when addressing or referring to the dogs. From the 17th century, the Akita has been bred and trained to hunt large game and retrieve waterfowl in the mountains of northern Japan. Akitas were first brought to the United States in 1937 by the American author and lecturer Helen Keller; they became increasingly popular in the second half of the 20th century.
The akita is large and powerful, with a massive head; full, broad muzzle; and broad, black nose. The ears characteristically are erect, small in proportion to the head, and carried slightly forward over the eyes. The chest is wide and deep, the neck thick and muscular, and the skin pliant. The large, full tail is curled. The thick double-coat of the Akita (dog), about 5 cm (about 2 in) in length, is straight, harsh, and short. Males stand 66 to 71 cm (26 to 28 in) high; females, 61 to 66 cm (24 to 26 in).