What's Going on in the Show Ring?

Understanding Alpaca Halter & Performance Shows
By Mary Reed, ALSA President and Novice Alpaca Halter Judge

ALSA - The Alpaca & Llama Show Association sanctions shows, certifies Judges, guides show managers and educates exhibitors. The Alpaca show format has been jointly developed since 1990 by The Alpaca Owners & Breeders Association (AOBA) and ALSA.

HALTER CLASSES - The purpose for conducting halter classes is to compare animals, judging them against soundness, conformation and fiber criteria so as to determine those who are best suited for breeding purposes. Alpacas are shown in Full Fleece and Shorn halter classes.

Judging System - The system of judging used for alpaca halter shows is a relative system as differentiated from judging to a specific breed standard.

Judging Criteria - Alpacas in Full Fleece halter classes with 3" or more fiber on their neck, blanket and legs are evaluated 50% on their conformation and 50% on the quality of their fleece. Alpacas in Shorn halter classes with less than 3" of fiber on their neck, blanket and legs are evaluated 100% on their conformation. The judging criteria is based on a list of positive and negative traits for alpacas including: type, quality, conformation, movement, soundness, fiber quality and disposition. Using these traits as the basis, the Judge compares the alpacas to each other and places them according to this comparison.

Class Divisions - There are two breeds of alpacas, the Huacaya and the Suri, differentiated by their coat type. Huacaya alpacas have a fluffy appearance with hair that grows perpendicular to the skin and often has a wavy characteristic known as crimp. Suri alpacas have a lustrous silky appearance with hair that hangs parallel to the skin in pencil lock curls that resemble dread locks. Alpacas in full fleece classes are divided by breed. Shorn alpacas are combined by breed as only conformation can be evaluated.


Age Divisions - Alpacas are divided by age into three (3) age groups: Juvenile - 6 months to 12 months of age; Yearling - 13 months to 24 months of age; and Adult - 25 months of age and older.

Color Divisions - Alpacas are found in more natural colors than any other livestock. The show format recognizes 22 distinct colors and 2 color patterns, the pinto and "fancy" or multi-colored. Alpacas are divided into four major color groups: white/light, fawn, dark and multi-colored. If four or more alpacas in an age group have the same color designation, they can be divided into one of the 22 distinct colors. At an alpaca show you can truly enjoy the alpaca’s wide range of beautiful natural colors.

Gender - Lastly alpacas may be divided by sex into male and female classes if four or more animals in a distinct color are shown. Geldings are shown separately and all colors can be combined in a halter class.

Presentation - The alpaca will be picked clean so not to disturb the integrity of its fleece and shown to the Judge in a halter and lead line. The exhibitor will be conservatively and neatly dressed, often in show attire (dark pants or skirt and light shirt) so to show off the animal, not the handler.

Ring Procedure - The alpacas will be called into the show ring oldest to youngest in age or vice versa. The Ring Steward (the person in the ring assisting the Judge) will ask the handlers to walk their alpacas around the perimeter of the ring while the Judge stands in the middle of the ring to view the class as a whole. The Judge considers each alpaca’s soundness, conformation and movement as they walk around the ring. Then they will be lined up head to tail or at a profile view so that the Judge can compare the balance and proportion of each alpaca. The Ring Steward will then line the alpacas up side by side down the middle of the ring, for individual examination of bite and fiber by the Judge.

Bite - The Judge will inspect the bite of each animal looking for soundness and proper jaw alignment. The Judge will closely examine the head, eyes and ears for type.

Fleece Evaluation - The Judge will part the fleece in three areas to evaluate the fineness and handle (softness to touch), density, uniformity of staple length, color, character, average fiber diameter and density, architecture (presence of crimp and/or crinkle in Huacaya and lock formation in Suri), luster of fleece and condition (natural cleanliness, weathered, matted and tipped ends). Fifty percent (50%) of the evaluation in a full fleece halter class is the quality of the fiber of the alpaca.

Body Score and Top Line - The Judge run his/her hand down the top line of the alpaca to feel the overall condition of the animal and levelness of its spine.

PRODUCE CLASSES - Get of Sire - These classes demonstrate the quality and consistency of breeding programs. Three offspring sired by the same male (Herd sire) are evaluated as a group or "get" to determine the overall quality and consistency of quality passed on by that male.

SHOWMANSHIP - A showmanship class is a demonstration of the handler’s ability to show his animal to its best advantage at halter. Judging is based on the exhibitor’s basic skills in fitting, grooming, following directions and style of presenting the animal to the Judge for evaluation. The animal’s conformation is not considered.

PERFORMANCE CLASSES - Performance classes are designed to present or simulate conditions and obstacles that would be encountered in certain situations, such as a trail hike or visit to a nursing home.

Obstacle class - These classes demonstrate the intelligence, versatility and willingness of a well-trained alpaca to follow the directions and command of its handler. The Open course will offer 10 obstacles including those that are mandatory: a bridge or ramp, jumps, flexibility and maneuvering, change of pace and backing.

Alpaca Agility Sweepstakes Class - The purpose of this class is to demonstrate the well-trained alpaca’s ability and willingness to complete the activities involved with public relations events and agility. There is a prescribed list of activities to be included in an Agility course. The Open Agility course will have 10 activities: demonstrate willingness to wear a sweepstakes blanket, backing, go over a bridge, ramp or stairs, change of pace, maneuver around objects, go through gate, load in a vehicle, tolerate petting by strangers, demonstrate willingness for handler to show teeth or pick up a foot, meet strange animal or object and tolerate loud noises.