The Ideal Alpaca

From the creation of Inca Alpaca the vision of one day being able to breed and sell alpacas that are as close to perfect or ideal has been at the forefront of our mind when it comes to breeding. This image of the ideal or “Perfect Alpaca” is best described by world renowned alpaca judge and author, Mike Safely of Northwest Alpacas, Oregon USA.

To breed towards the perfect alpaca, we must have a vivid picture of “perfect” in our mind. First and foremost, an alpaca is a production animal. The product it creates is fleece. An alpaca’s ultimate value is directly related to its ability to create fine, dense fleece that is in strong demand by the makers of luxury garments.

It is important to remember that the fleece and bone characteristics, which make an alpaca valuable, are heritable. When the genetic markers for these characteristics become fixed and the alpacas are mated properly these fleece and conformational traits are passed on to their offspring. At the end of the day, the ideal alpaca produces an elite fleece and quality cria with high breeding values.

The ideal Huacaya alpacaLilyfield Jack of Spades of Inca

An ideal alpaca’s look begins with the head, a dense top knot, well-covered cheeks converging with the wool cap to form a close V at the eyes, which are brown. The ears are shaped like an arrowhead and erect. The muzzle is soft and wedge shaped. The jaw should fit together correctly, with the lower incisors meeting the upper dental pad. The head and neck make up about one-third of an alpaca’s height, the body makes up one-third, as do the legs.

The neck connects to the shoulder at approximately a 45° angle to the back, which is straight, dropping off a bit at the tail. When the alpaca is alert, the neck and back form almost a 90° angle with the head slightly forward. The perfect alpaca has a squared off appearance, with four strong legs setting squarely under it, giving it a graceful stance which translates into a fluid gait. The ideal alpaca has a soft, dense fleece with abundant coverage down the legs.

The cheeks should be well covered, and the bridge of the nose clean. The crimp in the top knot should continue down the neck, across the blanket, and into the tail, finishing down the belly and legs.

The stars of any herd will catch your eye with an alert, erect appearance. Their fleece opens into well-organized locks of soft, bright, and lustrous fleece, which handles like silk or cashmere.

Popham Thunder Fleece 2011The ideal Huacaya alpaca fleece

The ideal huacaya’s fleece should be: fine, dense, uniform, and grow perpendicular to the skin. The fleece, which grows from individual follicles in the skin, should be made up of defined staples of crimpy “bundled” fleece. These bundles should organize themselves into staples which create a dense presentation across the animal. The huacaya alpaca should be well covered with a soft, uniform fleece, except on the ears and the bridge of the nose of mature animals. The muzzle and ears should be soft to the touch. The elite alpaca has a well-defined crimp in their top knot, which continues down the neck, into the blanket, the belly, and on to the tail. There should be very little medulation (coarse guard hair). The fleece should be well-nourished, exhibit a brightness or sheen, and be void of dull, dry, chalky fiber. The ideal huacaya will produce fleece as soft and as fine as cashmere.

Centurian HeadPositive Huacaya Traits in Order of Importance:

– Fineness 30%
– Density 30%
– Crimp 15%
– Uniformity 10%
– Luster or brightness 10%
– Staple length 5%

Faults:

– A high proportion of medulated fibre through the saddle or blanket of the fleece
– Tender breaks
– Muffled face on adults
– Lack of density
– Lack of overall coverage
– Chalkiness or lack of luster/sheen/brightness
– Coarse handle
– Short staple length for age of fleece
– Lack of crimp


Permission to use this description of the Ideal Alpaca given by Mike Safely of Northwest Alpacas, Oregon USA.