Alpaca Judging & Breeding Standards

Like all exhibition shows for pedigreed animals or exceptional livestock, alpaca shows are organized by various governing bodies in the industry. These will vary by region, but there are opportunities for enthusiasts of all ages from children to adults to compete with their animals.

In general, alpaca judges look for the following points:

  • Quality of movement when walking toward and away.
  • Absence of physical anomalies or abnormalities.
  • Width of the chest.
  • Nature of boning (fine or heavy.)
  • Quality of the top line (Strong or trail and humped back.)
  • Fullness of the cap.
  • Shape of the ears.
  • Shape of the head (wedge)
  • Fullness of a Huacaya’s cheeks.
  • Quality of chin locks in a Suri.
  • Quality of the fleece.

After observing the animals and forming an initial impression, judges conduct a hands-on evaluation before placing the class. Although there are set points to take into consideration, alpaca judging is as much an art as a science and there is almost always disagreement with the judges’ final decision!

The Matter of Breed Standards

Although there is no one set breed standard for alpacas, the following points are used by the International Alpaca Judging School. They are reproduced here as an example of the criteria used in evaluating the quality of alpaca show animals. Depending on your location in the world, other standards may apply.

General Appearance Huacayas

The ideal Huacaya alpaca has a squared-off appearance with four strong legs. It is a graceful, well-proportioned animal with the neck being two-thirds of the length of the back and the legs matching the length of the neck. It is Well covered with fibre from the top of the head to the toes. It has fibre characteristics that differ distinctly to the Suri alpaca.

General Appearance Suris

The ideal Suri alpaca has a squared off elegant appearance with four strong legs. It is a graceful, well-proportioned animal with the neck being two-thirds of the length of the back and the legs matching the length of the neck. It is well covered with fibre from the top of the head to the toes. It has fibre characteristics that differ distinctly to the Huacaya alpaca.

Head – Huacayas

The head is neatly formed of medium length with a square muzzle. It bears two upright spear-shaped ears between which there is a full fibre topknot or bonnet. The eyes protrude slightly from their sockets and are large and round.

The eyes can be of several shades although 90% of the population have black eyes. The other acceptable colour is brown. There are also various shades of blue eyes with or without coloured flecks.

The jaws fit together well, with the lower incisors meeting the upper dental pad. The upper lip is centrally divided and mobile to give them more dexterity in gathering food from certain plants.

The nose has two well-defined flaring nostrils. Darker pigmentation to the skin is preferred around the mouth and eyes giving them added protection to ultra-violet light radiation and the environment.

Major Faults:

  • Deafness in blue-eyed alpacas with lack of skin pigmentation and white fleece.
  • Gopher ears.
  • Superior and inferior prognathism.
  • Wry face.
  • Lump on the side of the face indicative of abscessing in the mouth.
  • Eyes: cataracts, entropy, ectropy, blindness.

Minor Faults:

  • A straight inside border or banana-type configuration of the ear (indicating llama traits).
  • Forward set ears.
  • Roman nose (llama tendency).
  • Narrow head.
  • Muffled face in the adult alpaca. (fibre or hair impeding the alpaca’s Vision).
  • Open-faced. (Lack of fibre coverage over the face.)
  • Lack of pigmentation on the lips and around the eyes.
  • Retained or persistent deciduous teeth.

Head – Suris

The head is neatly formed of medium length with a square muzzle. Suris have more of a tapering shape to the muzzle. They bear two upright spear-shaped ears between which there is a full fibre topknot or bonnet that falls typically in a fringe over the brow. Suri ears are approximately 2cm longer than Huacaya ears.

The eyes protrude slightly from their sockets and are large and round. The eyes can be of several shades although 90% of the population is black. Brown is also a desirable colour.

There are also various shades of blue with or without coloured flecks.

The jaws fit together well, with the lower incisors meeting the upper dental pad. The upper lip is centrally divided and mobile to give more dexterity for feeding off certain plants.

The nose has two well-defined flaring nostrils. Darker pigmentation to the skin is preferred around the mouth and eyes giving them added protection to ultraviolet irradiation and the environment.

Major Faults:

  • Deafness in blue-eyed alpacas with lack of skin pigmentation and white fleece.
  • Gopher ears.
  • Superior and inferior prognathism.
  • Wry face.
  • Lump on the side of the face indicative of abscessing in the mouth.
  • Eyes: cataracts, entropy, ectropy, blindness.

Minor Faults:

A straight inside border or banana-type configuration of the ear indicating llama traits

  • Forward set ears.
  • Roman nose (llama tendency).
  • Narrow head
  • Muffled face in the Suri (fibre or hair impeding the alpaca‘s Vision or retained on the adult face).
  • Retained or persistent deciduous teeth
  • Open faced with lack of fibre coverage over the face. Lack of pigmentation around the lips and eyes

Height And Weight

The height at the withers of the adult alpaca is no less than 85cm and the average weight of an adult alpaca is 60kg.

Faults:

  • Small sized with less than 85cm measurement at the withers.
  • Oversized with llama characteristics.

Legs

The legs are supported by four two-toed feet, With each toe supporting a long toenail. They should be straight with the joints aligned to a perpendicular plumb line from the hip posteriorly and shoulder anteriorly. The shoulder blade is attached by muscular tissue to the thoracic cage but should move freely as the animal strides. A leathery padded membrane, which lessens the impact on the environment where they tread, protects the feet.

Major Faults:

  • Excessive angular limb deformity.
  • Subluxing patellae.

Minor Faults:

Front Legs:

  • Knocked knees.
  • Calf knees/cocked pasterns.
  • Bucked knees/dropped pasterns.
  • Medially or laterally deviated pasterns.
  • Splay legs.

Rear Legs:

  • Cow hocks.
  • Sickle hocks.
  • Bowlegs.
  • Cocked pasterns.
  • Dropped pasterns.
  • Poorly maintained toenails.

Body

The neck of the alpaca is straight and upright and blends smoothly into the back, which is normally very slightly rounded in the Huacaya.

The rear of the alpaca has a tucked-in tail appearance that is due to the angulation of its pelvis being more vertical than the llama, sitting at about 60 degrees from the horizontal.

The resting position of the tail is such that it lies close to the body, covering the genitalia. The tail is raised away from the body during defecation and urination and for expression of temperament and mood. This gives the tail a noticeably lower set than that of the llama.

The chest should have depth to allow adequate capacity for air exchange.

Major Faults:

  • Lateral deviations of the spine.
  • Herniated umbilicus.

Minor Faults:

  • Roach back.
  • Sagging back
  • U neck
  • Lateral deviations of the neck
  • Disproportionate length of neck (too long or too short).
  • Deviations of the tail, broken tail.

Gait

A free-flowing stride is characteristic of the alpaca. Its normal slow speed gait is a stable four-point gait where each foot is moved and planted separately. At a faster speed the alpaca has a pacing gait which is two-point, where the two feet on either side are moved together.

Major Faults:

  • Excessive angular limb deformity causing excessively abnormal movement.
  • Subluxing patellae causing abnormal rear gait.

Minor Faults:

  • Joints tracking medially or laterally to the vertical plum line.
  • Gaits associated with angular limb deformity such as winging, arcing, rope walking and throwing out of the front limbs where there is rotation at the joints of the front limb.

Genitalia (Female)

The genitalia of the female is protected internally and therefore not visible from the outside. However, the vaginal opening should be well covered by the tail, should not be too small and should be situated in a vertical rather than a horizontal plane.

Major Faults:

  • Too small of a vaginal opening.
  • Hemaphroditism.
  • Lack of any part of the reproductive system.

Minor Faults:

  • Horizontally situated pelvic floor.
  • Tipped up clitoris.

Genitalia (Male)

The most visible part of the male genitalia is the testicles that are situated and protected underneath the tail. The scrotum is well attached, relatively small and carries the testicles, which are relatively even in size.

The penis is also an external organ, which is situated under the belly between the rear legs. The normal size of fully developed testicles is: 4cm in length, 2.5cm in width in the adult male alpaca.

Major Faults:

  • Hermaphroditism.
  • Ectopic testicles (these testes are located outside the abdominal cavity under the skin, sometimes migrating down the leg).
  • Cryptorchidism of the testicles/unilateral or bilateral (the lack of one or more testicles in the scrotum). Too soft or too hard testicular consistency.
  • Cystic testicles.
  • Unilateral or bilateral hypoplasia of the testes (one or both testicles of abnormally small size for the age)

Colour of Huacaya And Suri

Huacaya fleece comes in varying shades of colour: white, fawn, brown, gray, rose-gray, and black. The ideal alpaca should have a uniform solid colour throughout the entire fleece. However they can be any combination of the above.

Colour of Suri

Suri fleece comes in varying shades of colour white, fawn, brown, gray, rose-gray, and black. The ideal Suri alpaca should have a uniform solid colour throughout the entire fleece. However they can be any combination of the above.

Fleece Huacaya

Huacaya alpacas produce a fine soft fibre that grows perpendicular to the skin. In the ideal Huacaya alpaca there is marked crimp formation as the fibre grows out of the skin. The hair follicles are situated close together in the skin, giving density to the fleece with groups of fibres bunching together to form defined staples. The following fibre characteristics are applicable to Huacaya fibre:

1. Fineness – this is the thickness of the fibre that is measured in microns. The finest fibre on the alpaca is found in the blanket area, however it is desirable to have fine fibre on the neck, belly, legs and topknot.

Fineness is important for both commercial processor and the fibre grower since premium prices are paid for fine fibre and fine fibre translates into fine end products. Crimp is also related to fineness and it is desirable too to have a high number of waves per cm. or inch.

2. Density – is the number of fibres per square measurement of skin. Density is associated with fleece weight since the more fibres per square unit measurement, the more fleece will be grown and the heavier the fleece. A dense crimped fleece also acts as a barrier to dirt and weather.

3. Character – defined as strong crimp definition and staple formation.

4. Length of staple – is a very important factor in the amount of fleece shorn from the Huacaya alpaca.

The more rapidly the length of staple that is grown the more weight of fleece there will be.

5. Brightness – is the amount of light that reflects from the fibre and is seen in the Huacaya. A brilliant appearance of the fleece is desirable.

6. Medalated fibre – is the coarse-microned fibre that grows in the lesser quality areas of the alpaca. Lack of medulated fibre in the prime or blanket area is desirable.

7. Uniformity of micron – processors require fleece of minimum variation in fibre diameter, therefore uniformity in fibre diameter is desirable across the blanket area of the alpaca. This also helps to eliminate fleece tenderness (fleece breakage) and prickle effect in the end product.

Faults:

  • Open fleece with no density
  • Harsh handle
  • Short staple length
  • Guard hair in the blanket
  • Lack of overall coverage
  • Tenderness and stress breaks
  • Felting and cotting

Fleece Suri

The primary characteristics of the Suri fleece are its lock structure, high lustre, silky handle and long staple length. The fleece falls close to the body, moves freely, and gives the Suri a flat-sided, lustrous appearance.

The locks can have a pencilled ringlet formation, curling to the left or right, or a wave structure that forms from the skin of the alpaca. The fleece locking should begin from the forelock and continue uniformly down the neck, across the blanket and through the legs. The following fibre characteristics are applicable to Suri fibre:

1. Fineness – this is the thickness of the fibre, which is measured in microns. The finest fibre on the alpaca is found in the blanket area, however it is desirable to have fine fibre on the neck, belly, legs and topknot. Fineness is important for both commercial processor and the fibre grower since premium prices are paid for fine fibre and fine fibre translated into fine end products.

2. Density – is the number of fibres per square measurement of skin. Density is associated with fleece weight since the more fibres per square unit measurement, the more fleece will be grown and the heavier the fleece.

3. Lock Structure – in the Suri lock structure is very important. The fibres group together to form ringlet type locks that turn to the right or to the left. Ideally, the lock should form a ringlet from the skin. However, it is common to find a lock structure that starts at the skin as a flat wave formation then continues out down the side of the alpaca in a ringlet.

4. Luster – is the sheen or shine that reflects from the fleece. This is a highly desirable trait in the Suri fleece and translates in the end product. The smooth flat structure of the outside cuticular layer of the individual fibers is responsible for this trait.

5. Length of staple – is a very important factor in the amount of fleece shorn from the Suri alpaca. The

more length of staple that is grown the more weight of fleece there will be. A Suri will grow 60% longer fleece than Huacaya in one year’s growth.

6. Medulation – there should be little or no evidence of medulated fibres in the fleece.

Faults:

  • Open fleece lacking lock definition.
  • Lack of density.
  • Crimp.
  • Harsh handle.
  • Short staple length.
  • Guard hair.
  • Lack of overall coverage.
  • Tenderness and stress breaks.
  • Felting and cotting.