Sheep were small and their fleeces light, nevertheless, owing to the meagreness of the yields of cereals' and the demand for wool for export, sheep-farming was looked to, as early as the 12th century, as the chief source of profit.
Its object was the acquisition of gold, which was caught by the inhabitants of Colchis in fleeces as it was washed down the rivers.
The alpaca and vicuña are smaller and weaker and have never been used for this service, but their fine, glossy fleeces were used by the Indians in the manufacture of clothing and are still an important commercial asset of the elevated table-lands of Peru and Bolivia.
The fleeces are sorted for colour and quality by skilled native women.
These animals are of great use and profit to their masters, for their wool is very good and fine, particularly that of the species called pacas, which have very long fleeces; and the expense of their food is trifling, as a handful of maize suffices them, and they can go four or five days without water.