When buying alpacas, it's important to understand good from bad conformation. Good conformation in alpacas
is inherited from the parents. If you are considering the purchase of
breedable alpacas, then you want animals, whose conformation can be passed down to their babies.
Alpacas are fleece animals. We raise them to harvest their incredibly soft, light-weight abundant fiber. Alpaca fleece is in high demand by luxury garmemt makers worldwide. In the United States, many halter shows are moving towards evaluating animals 60% on fleece characteristics and 40% on conformation, or body-skeletal characteristics. Conformation deals with an alpaca's ability to easily reproduce young, eat sufficiently to intake adequate nutrition, and walk around. The following list indicates conformation characteristics to look for when considering an alpaca purchase.
Ideal ears are curved on the sides and pointed at the top. They should NOT be like llama's "banana ears,"
which has the whole ear curving inwards. Alpaca ears are also shorter than llama ears.
Big, dark-colored, clear eyes are normal. Blue eyes may indicate deafness. Gently pull the upper lid up
to check for healthy pink or red blood vessels. Lack of blood vessels in this area may indicate the presence
of intestinal worms and/or anemia.
Alpacas have shorter snouts than llamas. Currently, a nose that is a little more square than pointed is
Fiber coverage on head relates to a denser fleece on the body. For the animal's health, always keep
the topknot trimmed above its eyes, so that it can see where it's going. A long, felted top knot is
A darker color on palate and gums can indicate darker alleles and the chances that alpaca will throw color
in its breeding future. In white and light colored alpacas, pink gums are healthy. Pale gums may indicate
the presence of intestinal worms and/or anemia.
The lower teeth should align with the upper dental pad. An overbite or underbite of the lower teeth is
bad conformation. Alpacas loose
their baby teeth at about 2-3 years of age, and the adult teeth emerge from behind. Males have fighting teeth at
about 2 to 3 years of age.
The neck length is 2/3rds the length of the back from the withers to the croup. The withers are where
the neck meets the back, and the croup is where the base of tail emerges from the spine.
The top line is slightly curved and more rounded toward the rear. Llamas have
longer, straighter backs because they have been bred for thousands
of years to carry weight. The more weight the better. Alpacas have a more rounded end then a llama
and because they were bred for fiber.
Alpacas should "double track" when moving. That is, the left back legs moves in a straight behind the front
left let, and the right back leg moves behind the right front leg. The left and right sides move in
separate, but parallel straight tracks. "Single tracking" where the left and right sides move close towards
one single line are bad conformation. In females, single tracking in the rear may indicate small pelvis that
would cause difficult births.
Front legs with "knock knees" that tilt inwards are incorrect. Front legs should be straight from the
shoulders down to the feet. Back legs where the elbow tilts inward are "cow-hocked" and incorrect.
When looking from the side, the there should be a natural hock or bend
in the back leg.
This page was last updated on June 9, 2009.