Fleece, humming, superfine fiber: Inside the world of competitive alpaca shows

The Denver Post
By: Sam Tabachnik

Original content from The Denver Post.  

The events are part of Denver’s annual National Western Stock Show

Ryan Williams and his alpaca, Bear, stood side by side at the opening of the arena at the National Western Stock Show, waiting for their opportunity to impress.

Bear, a 2-year-old old alpaca with cashmere-soft white fleece and spots of brown, fidgeted, his eyes darting around the cavernous space, which on Saturday was filled with alpacas and llamas of all shapes and sizes — the competition.

“He’s nervous,” Williams said.

Finally, the judge called the alpacas and their owners into the arena. It’s showtime.

Welcome to life at the alpaca halter show, one of many events held during the National Western Stock Show. Breeders and livestock owners from Colorado and beyond arrived Saturday in cowboy boots and hats to showcase their alpacas to a festive crowd.

So, many may wonder: What exactly is an alpaca halter show?

The animals are judged on two sets of criteria.

“Fifty percent is confirmation,” Loner said. “That means body type, correct proportions. I’m looking for a lack of skeletal defects in the body, no crooked teeth or knocked knees.”

Loner strode over to the first contestant, a slightly jumpy brown alpaca. The owner promptly separated the alpaca’s lips to show a set of large white teeth.

“The other 50 percent is about the fleece,” she explained.

On each alpaca, Loner grabbed a chunk of fleece in the animal’s midsection. She separated the fibers, getting a look at the base near the skin.

“I’m looking for uniformity of color and length, as well as the softness,” Loner said.

About 120 alpacas showed up to the show on Saturday afternoon, competing in various fields. Each color, age and gender had its own competition. Afterward, the winners of each color were judged against each other, regardless of age.

Read the rest of this story at The Denver Post.