The Alpaca Vocabulary
Every business has its own terms and language. Here are some alpaca terms we use in the alpaca industry:
AOBA - The Alpaca Owners and Breeders Association
Blanket - The part of an alpaca’s coat that extends from the nape of the neck at the withers along to the tail and down the flanks to the belly and haunches. This is usually the softest, "Prime" fleece.
Bred Female - A pregnant alpaca. The average gestation for an alpaca is 11 1/2 months.
Breeding - Induced ovulation (no estrous cycle) through physical copulation between sire and dam. About 90% of alpacas become pregnant on the first breeding.
Camelidae - (Camelids) The larger family in which lama pacaos (the alpaca) is a member. This grouping includes camels, llama, guanacos, and vicunas.
Character - The overall evaluation of a fleece or lock as based on handle, staple length, fineness, density, luster, and softness.
Conformation - The shape or contour of the alpaca, resulting from the appropriate arrangement, or balance, of body parts. Usally, the neck and legs are the same length and 3/4 of the length of the body.
Coverage - A North American breeder term for abundant fiber growth which occurs in areas other than primary blanket, i.e. between the ears (cap) and on the lower legs.
Cria - (Cree-a) A baby alpaca. The word drives from the Spanish terms for creation and nursing. Crias usually weigh 12-18 lbs. when born.
Crimp - The even, corrugated wave formation in a single fiber of huacaya fleece.
Curl - The spiraling, lustrous ringlets along the length of individual suri fibers which gives the complete drenched look.
Density - The number of fibers in a specific area of an alpaca’s body.
Fiber - The fleece of the alpaca also known as wool or fur.
Fineness - The diameter in microns of individual alpaca fibers.
Genotype - The entire genetic constitution of the individual alpaca.
Handle - The way an alpaca fiber feels when touched; sometimes used interchangeably with “softness”.
Herdsire - A male alpaca with genetic characteristics desirable for breeding. Only the top 1-2% of males become breeding herdsires.
Huacaya - A type of alpaca with crimped wool that resembles a teddy bear. Alpacas of Montana raises Huacaya alpacas.
Hyperthermia - Body temperature elevated above the normal range.
Lama Pacos - Alpaca.
Live Birth - A portion of most alpaca purchase contracts involve a bred female in which the seller understands that the cria, when born, will be alive and survive for a stated minimal amount of time, usually hours. Alpacas of Montana guarantees a live birth for 24 hours.
Loft - The springiness in fiber as it returns to normal after being squeezed; sometimes used synonymously with fluffiness.
Parturition - The process of giving; also called birthing.
Pet Quality- A male alpaca whose genetic characteristics are not considered desirable for breeding; usually gelded at 12-18 months of age. They are used for fiber production or sold as pets.
Phenotype - The entire physical, biochemical, and physiological make-up of an individual alpaca, determined both genetically and environmentally.
Prime Fleece - The best fleece an alpaca will ever produce, usually its fur coat called Tui.
Rebreeding - A standard portion of bred female sales agreement in which the seller offers rebreeding (usually free) to his sire in the event that the cria does not survive long enough to satisfy the live clause in the contract. This may also involve a free or reduced-fee rebreeding of the dam after successful birth of the cria. A female is usually bred 15-19 days after giving birth.
Registry - The Alpaca Registry was created in 1988 and is the central storage and retrieval center for information on almost every alpaca in the United States. The Registry records and maintains pedigrees, blood typing, registry numbers and other vital information on registered alpacas and makes this data available upon request. When an alpaca is registered, a blood sample is sent to the registry to verify who are the parents. A certificate is then sent out to the owner showing the alpaca's lineage for several generations.
Shearing - The once-a-year harvesting of alpaca fibers usually carried out in mid-spring in order to make alpaca cooler through the summer and allow the coat time to grow back before the cold returns.
Sire - The alpaca’s father – sometimes called “herdsire ”.
Specialty Fibers - The fleece and fleece products of the goat and camel families, including mohair, cashmere alpaca, vicuna, guanaco, llama, and camels.
Suri - An alpaca type, known for long “pencils” of non-crimped fiber resembling dreadlocks.
Tui - See prime fleece.
Topknot - See Wool Cap.
Unsoundness - Any condition that prevents a part of the body from maximal function.
Vicuana - A small (90 pounds) South American camelid with an extremely fine cinnamon and white color. Some consider the vicuana to be a direct ancestor of the alpaca and have the softest fleece in the world.
Weanling - A weaned alpaca less than one year old. Most alpacas are weaned at 4 to 7 months of age.
Wool Cap - Wool on the alpaca’s head and between its ears which is considered a desirable aesthetic, also known as the topknot.