By Maggie Krieger (original copy 8.03.05)
have for years been exhibited in the Alpaca show ring in South America but have only
relatively recently been introduced to the alpaca show ring in other countries of
the world. The delay in their introduction to exhibition and show competition outside
Peru has probably been due to a couple of factors. Firstly they have been extremely
rare outside of South America until the importation trends of the last five years
or so. Secondly the numbers that have been available for competition have been so
limited that it has hardly been worth while competing since numbers of participants
in any competitive scenario dictate the value of winning when all is said and done.
the actual practical aspect of showing a Suri there is no difference between the methodology
of taking a Suri into the show ring versus a Huacaya. The principles are all the same.
However the temperament of the Suri is different to the Huacaya and if you ask any
Suri breeder that has show experience with both they will confirm this statement.
From the point of view of the judge it can easily be seen that the Suri has a more
flighty and nervous disposition, lending to its general reputation of being difficult
to handle in the show ring.
This creates a problem when it comes to the hands on physical restraint of the Suri
alpaca. It is highly advisable and essential at the outset of a Suriís show career
to invest a bit of time in training it to behave appropriately prior to exposing it
to the showring situation. I have experienced many a situation in the showring that
has lead me to believe the introduction of some Suriís to this weird and unnatural
environment has come as a huge shock to the alpaca. No prior training and even in
some extreme cases no prior handling has happened for the poor alpaca before exposure
to the ring situation. To my way of thinking it is simply cruel not to prepare the
alpaca in some way for what it will encounter on show day.
are countless ways to train your Suriís for the show ring and it is not my intention
to give you a quick lesson here. There are many authorities out there that can teach
you how to do this training; Marty McGee and John Mallon are but two of the experts
that come to mind in relation to this issue. My recommendation is to address training
for the show scene very seriously not only for the sake of your alpacaís health and
welfare but also for the safety of fellow handlers, show personnel and last but not
least the poor Judge. It is the Judge that has to evaluate the alpaca and if it is
uncontrollable how can he/she possibly get an impression of quality if it cannot be
scrutinized either from afar or close up because itís throwing itself around in a
wild and crazy frenzy?
There is nothing more eye catching than a group of suriís with fully grown fleece,
walking around a showring with their fiber almost touching the ground and flowing
around them, shimmering with luster and waving as they move by. Add a little breeze
to the picture and the motion of the fleece around them becomes spectacular to watch.
But the price of this aesthetic quality is a conundrum for industry and breeder alike,
which I will go into once I have described what is looked for in terms of Suri quality
in the show ring.
In terms of conformation and balance we are searching for the perfect alpaca in the
show ring. Perfect conformation and balance means that the body parts of the Suri
fit together in a size and proportion that is both functional and pleasing to the
eye. Correct proportion has traditionally been considered to be where the length of
the legs equals the length of the neck and is two thirds the length of the back or
topline. Eyeballing correct proportion from the side view of the Suri should depict
a rectangle formed by the legs in the front and rear and the belly on the top and
ground on the bottom as shown in Fig. 1. Although size varies tremendously according
to the age of the alpaca the adult fully grown animal should not measure any less
than thirty two inches at the withers (Shoulder area). So far there has been no maximum
size determined for either Huacaya or Suri. The balance and proportion for the Suri
is the same as that of the Huacaya type alpaca.
I have been questioned
in the past on what the conformational differences are between the Suri and the Huacaya.
From my understanding of the Peruvian Suri scenario (the country considered to be
the source of all Suriís) there is no major difference in balance and proportion however
the muzzle does have a slightly different profile than that of the Huacaya. The configuration
of the mouth looks as if the nose had been pushed down and forward fractionally so
the upper lip overhangs the lower a little more than the Huacayas profile. I have
observed this seems to be the case where the fiber is more typical of the Suri style
as well. Suri fleece characteristics are the main phenomena that distinguish the Huacaya
from the Suri. The classic fleece style for the Suri is considered by the Peruvian
breeder to be a lock style that exhibits ringlet formation and independent locks that
form to the skin of the alpaca (fig 2). Crimp found in the Suri fleece is indicative
of a crossbred animal that carries neither Suri nor huacaya fleece style but rather
a mixture of both (fig 3). High lustre is also a trait that distinguishes true Suri
When I questioned Suri Breeders at the National Show in Peru 2001 about why they bred
for this fleece style in the Suri, I was told that it was indicative of great fineness
and density and therefore production was high volume off this style of alpaca. It
follows that the higher the volume and the finer the grade the more financial return
on the fleece. So this fleece characteristic relates directly to the amount of income
the breeder will make off fleece production Ė a relevant issue when you participate
in a fiber production industry!
The aforementioned conundrum comes into play at this point because the ideal style
of Suri fleece exists naturally and can easily be seen when opening and examining
the fleece. However with the knowledge that this is the ideal fleece style for Suri
some breeders have learned that they can hoodwink the judge into thinking their fleece
is naturally this style if they spend hours separating each lock of the fleece into
a unit and falsely create the ringlet effect by curling it with hair curlers prior
to show. Any wandering fibers that do not stay in the ringlet unit are removed in
a process called ďstrippingĒ. This is where the extraneous fibers are literally torn
of the alpaca and disposed of. To complete the picture of the ideal fleece a little
mink oil or some lustre enhancing substance is sprayed on the fleece. Lustre is enhanced
but the hand of the fleece is completely undetectable once it has been sprayed in
this fashion. With a coating of oil left over the judges palm after attempting to
feel hand of this fleece, it will make it impossible to accurately assess the hand
of the fleece.
do not know of any show rules in the world that condone this practice and cheating
in this manner is extremely difficult for the judge to detect in the show ring. One
may ask how we know this practice takes place? Well when the odd curler is accidentally
left in the alpaca it is a little hard not to know! However as education begins to
make the difference in the show arena the cheating show person/breeder will loose
out because discriminating, knowledgeable and educated buyers will recognise the inferior
suri fleece and simply not pay good money for those genetics in the future. As successive
generations appear from cross bred Suriís the proof will be in the pudding, and the
fleece characteristics will not remain true to Suri style when not tampered with by
from the fraudulent practices of the indiscriminate few that have an impact on the
showing and ultimate sale of Suris, the cruelty imposed on them in having to endure
hours of standing quietly while they have their fleeces tampered with is outrageous.
These are anything but passive creatures by nature so to demand this extreme of tolerant
behaviour is totally going against their nature. The mind boggles at what may happen
to them if they do not stand still for hours on end and building frustration gets
the better of the groomer.
I am also happy to report that there are many breeders out there that do nothing to
their Suriís fleece prior to bringing them into the show ring. Those I have mentioned
above are fortunately in the minority. But as the years go by and competition gets
more competitive I would really hope that this problem does not develop into the norm
and Suri showing goes the way of sheep or dog showing. The Suri poodle does not hold
much appeal to my imagination. In my estimation the natural form cannot be beaten.
In addition why would anyone in their right mind want to spend hours of their valuable
time in the pursuit of making an animal miserable just to pull the wool over the judges
Note relating to this issue to those pursuing ABFS accreditation:
It is stipulated in the ABFS code of ethics: ďABFS Accredited Breeders shall abide
by the show rules and ethics required by any alpaca show organisation under which
they show their alpacas or alpaca fleeces.Ē
If you are to become an accredited breeder you will have to sign on the dotted line
that you are going to abide by the code of ethics as stipulated by ABFS!
Are you willing and ready to abide by this code of ethics? The code of ethics may
be found on the ABFS website under accreditation program.