John & Susan Merrell
41390 Hwy 226
Scio, OR 97374
503-551-7219 (cell)
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Common Terms

Common terminology can be very confusing for those first entering the realm of alpacas, and even more so if they do not have experience with other types of livestock or companion animals.  This list of terms is intended to be of assistance to those just entering the world of alpacas.

Alarm Call - A sound which alpacas, usually the males, make when they feel that the herd is threatened in some way. It sounds similar to an engine trying to start or a turkey call or some combination of the two.

Artificial Insemination (AI) - A process in which semen from a male alpaca is manually placed in the cervix or uterus of a female alpaca by a person. It has not been very successful in alpacas. Animals prodcued by AI can not be registered in the US alpaca registry (AI) at the time of this writing.

Banana Ears - A term used to refer to a particular ear set in llamas where the ears come up and curve inwards similar to the shape and size of a banana. This is considered a major conformational fault in alpacas.

Berserk Male Syndrome - A condition where a male alpaca who has been improperly imprinted on humans becomes physically agressive towards people upon reaching puberty. This behavior is not easily alterable once it begins. BMS has largely been replaced with the term Aberrant Behavioral Syndrome (ABS).

Body Score - A numerical value from 1 to 9 given to an animal based on how fat or thin they are. The optimal condition is assigned a 5, emaciated is assigned a 1 and obese is assigned a 9. Learn how to check your alpaca's body condition.

Bone - Used to describe the skeletal frame size of a alpaca. A alpaca with "a lot of bone" has a substantial frame and thicker bones which are usually apparent by the thickness of the legs. Breeders may try to "put on more bone" in their herd.

Colostrum - The first milk produced by a female alpaca around the time of parturition. It is rich in immunoglobulins (antibodies) and other components needed for the neonatal period. More on colostrum.

Concentrates - The component of the diet which is more energy dense with less fiber and given as supplemental feed. This includes many types of grains which can be mixed together to create a feed.

Cria - The term for a young alpaca from birth until he/she is weaned.

Dam - The female parent of a alpaca. Sometimes referred to as an hembra

Dung Pile - A designated area (usually decided upon by the alpacas) where alpacas urinate and defecate. There are often several dung piles within any one field or pasture.

Dust Pile - A bare area on the ground which alpacas use for rolling.

Embryo Transfer (ET) - A process in which early embryos are removed from one female alpaca and placed into other female alpacas for gestation and rearing. Australian alpaca breeders claim major progress in using this procedure, but the US registry does not allow registration of animals so produced.

Forage - The component of the diet which is less energy dense and contains more fiber. This includes grasses, legumes and hays.

Gait - A type of movement or locomotion. The gaits used by alpacas are walk, pace, trot, gallop and pronk. Most commonly used is a striding gait (see pace) where both legs on the same side of the body leave the ground simultaneously.

Gallop - A three-beated gait in which all four feet are never on the ground together. This is the fastest camelid gait. See more information on gaits.

Get of Sire - A class at a alpaca show where three alpacas with the same sire and at least two different dams are shown together as a group. The judge is looking for consistency in the influence of the sire.

Going down - This is used in reference to a female's receptivity to a male. If she drops into the cushed position, then she is said to have "gone down" for him.

Herdsire - A male alpaca who is used to breed female alpacas on a alpaca farm. He may also be called a stud or a macho.

Humming - The sounds that alpacas make when they are tired, stressed, hot, uncomfortable, curious or concerned. There are different types of hums for different causes. This is the most common vocalization heard from alpacas.

Knock-kneed - A condition in alpacas where the knees on the front legs angle in towards each other. The medical term for this is carpal valgus. It is a conformational fault which will cause alpacas to move incorrectly and lead to degenerative joint disease in the future. The knock-kneed alpacas will 'wing' when they walk. See the definition of winging for a description.

Cush - The term for the act of a alpaca laying down sternally or the actual position a alpaca is in when it is laying down. It may also be used as a command to get a alpaca to attain this position.

Lama - A term used to include both alpacas and alpacas since they are both previously classified in the genus Lama (i.e. Lama llama and Lama pacos), although the alpaca is now classified in the genus Vicugna (i.e. Vicugna pacos). People new to the alpaca and alpaca world often think this is the word llama misspelled.

Maiden Female - A female who has not been bred to a male yet, usually because she is too young.

Open Female - A female who is not pregnant.



- The polite way of saying in the showring that a alpaca is overweight or fat. Learn how to check your alpaca's body condition.


Pace - A two-beated gait in which the front and rear limbs on the same side move forward or back at the same time. It is a medium speed gait and is the least stable. This gait is unique to camelids, and is the source of the phrase "ship of the desert" since passengers of old world camels experience a gentle side to side swaying.

Potty Pile - Another common term used for a dung pile. See the definition under dung pile.

Produce of Dam - A class at a alpaca show where two alpacas with the same dam and two different sires are shown together as a pair. The judge is looking for consistency in the influence of the dam.

Preemie - A term used to refer to a cria who was born prematurely.

Pronking - A stiff-legged bouncing up into the air that both adult and juvenile alpacas do to play with each other or find and elude predators. It is not performed often.

Rolling - An activity which alpacas engage in regularly. Alpacas will lay on their side and roll half-way or completely over several times.

Sickle-hocked - A conformational fault in a alpaca where the hind feet come too far forward. This creates a sickle shape to the hind end when viewed from the side.

Sire - The male parent of a alpaca.

Stud - A male alpaca who is used to breed females. He can also be called a herdsire, or, as a macho.

Three-in-one - A common term used to refer to a pregnant female alpaca who is sold along with her unweaned cria. You are purchasing threee alpacas for one price: the female, the cria, and the unborn baby. Now sometimes referred to as Four-in-One if a breed back is included in the purchase price.

Tipped ears - This is a term used to refer to alpacas with ears that are not completely erect. Usually there is a small amount of cartilage at the tips of the ears which is not strong enough to stand up on its own. This can be genetic or it can be the result of prematurity or frostbite. It is not considered to be a major conformation fault.

Topline - A common term used to refer to a alpaca's back, usually as viewed from the side. A level to slightly convex topline is desired from the whithers to the tail.

Trot - A two-beated gait in which the diagonal front and rear limbs move forward or back at the same time. It is a medium speed gait which is more stable. See more information on gaits.

Underconditioned - A term used to describe a alpaca who is underwieght or too thin. Learn how to check your alpaca's body condition.

Walk - A four-beated gait which maintains three feet in contact with the ground at any one time. The slowest of the alpaca gaits.

Weanling - A alpaca who has been weaned from the mother but is under one year of age. Sometimes referred to as a Tui

Winging - The term used for a faulty movement of alpacas. As the alpaca moves a front foot forward, it will swing the front feet in towards the midline and then back out away from the body before placing it back down. This is usually associated with knock-kneed alpacas and will be more pronounced with severely knock-kneed alpacas.

Yearling - A alpaca who is one year of age but not yet two years of age.

Alpaca Sales

"The nursery confection was of white alpaca, piped with pink, and did not inspire the same excitement and confidence..."

- Margot Asquith
Margot Asquith, an Autobiography
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