The Huacaya alpaca breed standard that I am breeding for here at Howling Hill Farm is now completed. I decided that it needed its own page on the site, rather than just being a 'blog post, so you can view it here. The breed is called the Cheshire Alpaca, and it does not really exist yet.
Since the standard itself isn't going to be posted on the 'blog, I'll take this opportunity instead to head off some inevitable backlash from this posting.
First, let me explain a little bit more about that which I imagine is going to really rile alpaca breeders: the name. Names are a big deal to me, and as such, the name was not arrived at lightly. The first thing that alpaca breeders may note is that the name is not at all reminiscent of Incan civilizations. That is intentional. While I completely respect the awesomeness of the ancient Incan Alpaca breed, the breed that I am trying to develop here is not the same thing. It is a new thing. I don't know whether the Incans cared about leg coverage or substance of bone. I don't know whether they cared about head-shape. While I like to think that the standard is selecting for something that, fleece-wise, mimics the Incan Alpaca's fleece, I don't know that for sure; moreover, it is also a standard of conformation and breed type. Thus, it is its own thing, developed in the USA, and it gets a totally non-Incan name. This is not meant to be disrespectful of the Incans, but rather the opposite -- for all I know, they would have thought that all of the physical attributes were stupid.
Animal breeds, livestock breeds in particular, are, more often than not, generally named after the geographic location where they were developed. Take sheep, for example. We have the Shetland, the Icelandic, the Wensleydale, the Dorper, the Teeswater, the Clun Forest, and the list just keeps going. Although I could have gone with the name of our town, I thought that the name of our county sounded more like a breed name -- which brings us to our next point.
"Cheshire" anything is reminiscent of the Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland. I like Alice in Wonderland, and I like the Cheshire Cat, and, moreover, we are breeding for unusual colors, colors that may be reminiscent of said cat's pattern and/or propensity towards color change. Our implementation of the breed standard set forth here is towards a unique, playful sort of color scheme -- much like the Cheshire Cat. And ...
Last but probably not least -- I was very surprised to find that, despite it being a very common geographic name, and despite the existence of the Cheshire Cat, near as I can tell, there are no other animal breeds with the name Cheshire. If I am wrong here, please do write me and let me know, because I could not find any.
So, that's the name, which I imagine will be contentious. The next question I can hear breeders ask is, why bother? Isn't the AOA (American Alpaca Association) Standard good enough? Or the Australian Alpaca Association Standard?
That first one was a trick question. There is no AOA Standard. There is a book about judging that one can buy from AOA, but there is no written standard. Even if there was, though, it wouldn't have made a difference, because if it differed from my standard -- and it probably would, based on what I know of the show ring size preferences for starters -- I would still have had to write my own. I read the Australian Standard, and it was not sufficiently in-depth to encompass what I am breeding for. It is, when compared to most domestic breeds, actually a very loose "standard." There are also areas in which it does not agree with my breeding program (eg, "muffled face" being a fault -- I neither penalize nor select for this). Thus, my own standard was necessary.
The last major complaint I can think of is that some may argue that what I have written describes the breeding program of [insert big-name alpaca breeder here]. All I can say is that, if it does, neat! ... But they didn't write it down, at least not anywhere that I could find it.
I want to emphasize that this standard is not intended to describe a purely production-based animal. The Cheshire Alpaca is an animal that is enjoyable for small farmers to own. It is fun to show (if you like that sort of thing). It also produces killer fleece. If you are not interested in having an alpaca that looks cute and showy, consider taking a look at this standard that I have also developed. This is a production-based standard, intended to emphasize those traits that would be most important to a producer interested in maximizing profits and minimizing inputs.
Whew. So, here it is: our farm standard.
This is not the end, however. Up next in our series of articles on Alpaca Breed Standards comes the guide you've all been waiting for: The Universal Standard; AKA, What Not To Breed. I haven't even started working on this yet, so it's going to be awhile, but it's coming. Stay tuned!