Glossary: A Guide to Alpaca Terminology

So, you’re interested in alpaca and all of the wonderful items that can be made from their amazing fleece!  We don’t blame you. Nothing beats alpaca  when it comes to comfort, softness, warmth and water-resistance!  Alpaca fiber is one of nature’s most luxurious options for incredible wool scarves, gloves, sweaters, blankets hats, socks and much more!  Here are some terms to know when learning (or shopping) alpaca!

AOBA

The Alpaca Owners and Breeders Association is an organization with a mission to serve the alpaca industry. The AOBA promotes awareness of alpaca products, maintains an official DNA validated genealogical registry system, administers an alpaca show system, promotes scientific research to benefit the alpaca industry and much more.

Blanket

This term refers to the part of an alpaca’s coat that extends from the nape of the neck to the tail and down the flanks to the belly and haunches. It is usually the softest, “prime” fleece.

Bred Female

Bred females are pregnant alpacas. The average gestation for an alpaca is 11 1/2 months.

Camelids

This mammal grouping includes alpaca’s, camels, llamas, guanacos and vicunas.

Character

Character refers to how fleece is evaluated based on handle, staple length, fineness, density, luster and softness.

Cria

A baby alpaca is called a cria! The term comes from the Spanish root for creation and nursing. Babies, or crias, usually weight between 12 and 18 lbs. at birth.

Crimp

This is the even, corrugated wave formation in a single fiber of huacaya fleece.

Curl

This is the spiraling, lustrous ringlets along the length of individual suri fibers which gives them the complete drenched look.

Dam

This is the term for an alpaca’s mother.

Density

Density refers to the number of fibers in a specific area of an alpaca’s body.

Fiber

This is another word used to refer to the fleece of the alpaca, also known as wool or fur.

Fineness

Fineness is the diameter in microns of individual alpaca fibers.

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.

Loft

Loft is the springiness in fiber as it returns to normal after being squeezed. This term is sometimes used synonymously with fluffiness.

Prime Fleece

The best fleece an alpaca will ever produce, usually its fur coat called Tui.

Registry

The Alpaca Registry is a central storage and retrieval center for information on almost every alpaca in the United States. The Registry records and maintains pedigrees, blood typing and other vital information on registered alpacas.  When an alpaca is registered, a blood sample is sent to the registry to verify its 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 which is usually carried out in mid-Spring. This timing is preferred in order to keep alpaca cooler through the summer and allow the coat time to grow back before the cold returns.

Specialty Fibers

These are 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.

Vicuana

A small (90 pound) South American camelid with an extremely fine cinnamon and white color. Vicuanas are likely direct relatives of the alpaca.

Wool Cap

The wool cap is the tuft of hair on the alpaca’s head and between its ears. Wool caps are also called topknots and considered a desirable aesthetic.