Alpaca colours are determined by the fleece colour near mid-side skin in the blanket coat. The colour on the outside can be different due to weathering. If the colour is in between two shades, the darker shade is selected.
White- or dark spots on the face and legs do not affect these designations.
There are 16 basic solid colours for alpacas:
- Fawn (light, medium, dark)
- Brown (light, medium, dark)
- Bay Black
- True Black
- Rose Gray (light, medium, dark)
- Silver Gray (light, medium, dark)
Some alpaca owners prefer white alpacas since their fleece can be easily dyed. In Peru, South America, white alpacas are preferred for this very reason.
Because white alpacas have been bred for quality for so many years, they usually have better fleece. The white class at alpaca shows is very competitive. If your alpaca can get a place in the white class, it can get a place anywhere!
Blue-eyed white alpacas are a result of a breeding between two alpacas where both have white spots. (Tuxedo greys are also a form of a white spot.) This combination of two white spot genes results in hair follicles without any pigment. The eye colour and ear hairs are also affected. The resulting alpaca is totally white, has blue eyes, and is often deaf.
Beige and fawn colour designations can be tricky:
Beige alpacas may be solid beige, or may have gradations of light fawn to beige to white from the dorsal mid-line (top of the back) to the abdomen.
Fawn alpacas may be solid fawn, or may have gradations of dark fawn to light fawn to beige from the dorsal mid-line (top of the back) to the abdomen.
Some alpaca breeders prefer darker alpaca colours. Until recently these colour classes have been less competitive in alpaca shows. Since alpaca breeders have been concentrating on breeding black- and brown alpacas lately, their quality has improved a lot.
This breeding process can be statistically difficult because these darker colours are recessive genes while light colours are dominant genes. But to get higher quality, the breeder must breed with lighter colour alpacas at some point.
Bay black alpacas are mostly black with brown fibres.
True black alpacas only have black fibres.
Grey alpacas are very popular alpaca colours these days. Breeding for greys is also very challenging. Two tuxedo greys are generally not bred together since the result could be a blue-eyed white alpaca. Instead, a grey alpaca is bred with a brown or black alpaca with a 50% chance of achieving a grey cria.
Alpaca colour genetics can be so confusing:
Rose grey alpacas have a fairly uniform distribution of grey and white fibres mixed with a base of brown. Sometimes a few black fibres may be present.
Silver grey alpacas have a fairly uniform distribution of grey and white fibres mixed with a base of black.
Unusual colour designations:
Indefinite light alpacas are white or beige alpacas with easily recognizable dark fibres uniformly distributed throughout the blanket. But they are not grey alpacas.
Indefinite dark alpacas are coloured alpacas with easily recognizable white or light fibres uniformly distributed throughout the blanket. Again, they are not grey alpacas.
There are four colour designations for multicolour alpacas:
(These designations refer to the blanket coat only)
Pattern – The pattern alpaca has a six inch or more solid patch in the blanket which is not grey.
Pinto – The pinto alpaca has two distinct colours in the blanket one of which is white. The majority of the blanket is medium fawn or darker. The neck and legs are mostly white.
Fancy – The fancy alpaca has three or more distinct colours in the blanket which is not grey.
Appaloosa – The appaloosa alpaca has six or more spots of two or more colours in the blanket which is not grey.
Altogether there are 22 designations for alpaca colours in the alpaca industry.