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Huacaya and Suri - What’s the difference?

There are 2 types of alpacas available, distinguished by their fleece types.  There is a lot of discussion regarding what differentiates the breeds apart from fleece, but most breeders accept that the fleece is the property that defines whether the alpaca is a Suri (Soo-ree) or a Huacaya (wha-ky-ah). The basic animal underneath the fleece is almost identical. There are some small differences in body shape, ear shape and length, tail shape and length etc… but fundamentally they are the same species.

When breeding the Huacaya, the emphasis is on density (thickness of the fleece), fineness (thickness of each fibre) and crimp (amount of crinkle in each fibre).

When breeding the Suri, the emphasis is also on density and fineness, but rather than crimp (there is none) we are looking for lustre and penciling. The fleece falls in tight twists (pencils) and should have such lustre that it shines as the animal walks across the paddock!  


When it comes to processing the fibre, the Huacaya fleece behaves similarly to sheep’s wool and can be washed, carded and spun much the same way.  The Suri fleece is very slippery – more like angora or cashmere – and therefore needs a different processing style.  Often the Suri is mixed with some Huacaya or other fibre to make it more manageable when being spun.


The Huacaya comes in 22 documented colours (the AAA only has 14 on it’s recognised list).  In South America, the Suri has been bred to be white, so the majority of Suri are white.  There is currently a fairly strong push to breed coloured Suri, and the way to do this is to cross breed the white Suri with coloured Huacaya.  Most coloured Suri have a Huacaya lurking in their background somewhere!  Each generation of coloured Suri becomes more removed from its Huacaya roots and should improve it's Suri characteristics.

Crimp - This is the "crinkle cut" look that a good huacaya fleece has.  When you part the fleece you will see lots of ridges from the skin to the tip of the fleece.  The crimp should be well defined - very clearly seen - and the fleece should grow in "bundles".


Bundles - the huacaya fleece should form into distinctive bunches where the whole bunch is crimped evenly.


Handle - The handle is how the fleece feels to touch.  A soft handle refers to the fleece feeling extremely soft to the touch.  Many huacaya breeders use a first cross suri in their breeding program to improve the handle as a huacaya that has a suri parent usually has a softer fleece.


Density - This relates to how many fibres are actually growing from the skin.  A dense fleece will have many more fibres and cut a heavier weight of fleece each year.  The density does not relate to the thickness of individual fibres but rather to the number of fibres (preferably very fine fibres!)


Twist or Pencilling - The suri fleece falls in pencils or twists.  There is a lot of argument over how much twist is good.  But whether you have a tight or loose twists, whether they are thick or thin, isn't the issue, but rather than it is well defined.  If the fleece is matted or fuzzy then this is a bad thing. The fleece should form clear twists from the skin to the tips.


Lustre - This is probably the most important attribute of the suri fleece.  This relates to how shiny the fleece is.  It is often not apparent on the surface, but if you part the fleece you should see it shine in the light.

The information contained in these pages is general advice only.

We recommend that you seek specific veterinary advice for your circumstances.  Samsuri Alpacas does not guarantee the accuracy of this information nor be held accountable for your interpretation or use of the advice contained herein. 

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