We have a pretty exciting group in our quarantine pen right now. There are alpacas in there with some seriously elite fleeces and seriously elite genetics. One of these fantastic alpacas is so exciting not only because of what she is, but what she represents: This girl is THE color I am breeding for.
It just so happens that she is also the type, and the body build as well, which is an absolutely spectacular coincidence that I could not have planned better. The color is what's really amazing, though, because, while I have a few "type" animals in my herd, I have -- incredibly -- none who are the color other than this girl. Starr is completely unique, but that really isn't that surprising, because she is one of only a handful of alpacas of this color that I am aware of ... Period.
So, what color is it, you ask?
This one. I wish the pictures were better, but my photography skills were obviously on vacation the other day when I took these.
This is a harlequin. She is also solid silver. No spots ... Anywhere. At all.
When Starr started life, her owners thought that she was light fawn, and understandably so. She looked like this (photo courtesy Don Hyson):
A year later, she looked like this:
It would have been really great if I'd taken a side view of her, to illustrate my point, but I didn't, so here's another "present day" photo:
Now, she is unmistakably grey, and a solid grey, at that.
Why is this cool? Well, for one, her blanket is solid -- totally, spotlessly solid -- which is a big deal for many grey breeders. Spotless, uniform blankets appear to be highly correlated with more uniform fiber. Along those lines, I have noticed that the grey fleece from harlequins is often much more uniform in color than that of modern and tuxedo greys. Their fleeces are also often more advanced than those of tuxedos and moderns. I am not alone in noticing this -- when harlequins go up against other forms of grey in the show ring, they tend to kick butt.
In case I haven't blogged about them before, let's review what a harlequin alpaca is (since they have really come to be the main focus of our alpaca breeding program). This is a harlequin alpaca (specifically, this is Starr's mom, Sparky):
Sparky is a classic harlequin. She has a spotted face, a few spots around her chest, and a few on her belly. Her blanket is solid grey. She, too, started life as a fawn.
Here are two more classic harlequins. These two are maternal half sisters -- the one on the left is Sassy, an undefeated show champion. The one on the right is Ella, who has never shown but is also extremely awesome. Ella has some spots on her blanket, while Sassy doesn't, but they are both classic harlequins.
Then, of course, we cannot forget our beloved Logan Stormwrecker -- he is also a classic, with a totally solid blanket (as we confirmed on shearing day).
Related to the harlequin is the true appaloosa. The coloring appears to be caused by the same genetic mutation, but differences in other color genes determine whether an alpaca will be a harlequin, like the ladies pictured above, or an appaloosa, like these guys:
There are even more extreme appaloosas out there as well. These, like the solid silver harlequin, and very rare -- and quite coveted, because they are really freaking cool! Some even resemble giraffes in their patterning. Sadly, we don't have any of these yet at Howling Hill Farm ... Emphasis on "yet."
Back to the solid silver. We do have one other solid silver harlequin connection on the farm, and that is Arista. Arista is a tuxedo dark silver grey, but her sire is Aussie Rockford, a well-known harlequin carrier, and it appears that she carries the gene as well. Check out the before and after pictures of her first son, Corvis (photos courtesy Linda Buttolph):
Not only do these solid silvers look cool as all get-out, but I believe that they may be the key to producing the most uniform grey fiber possible. THAT is why this is my favorite alpaca color!
K writes this stuff, for some reason that has yet to become apparent.