Alpaca Color Genetics

Alpacas come in more colors than any other mammal

Alpacas come in more colors than any other mammal

Last weekend I was fortunate enough to hear Andy Merriwether, PhD  of Nyala Farm Alpacas speak on the topic of color genetics in alpacas. Here are some things I learned:

  • Alpacas are the most color variable mammal on the planet
  • 60% of blue-eyed white alpacas are deaf
  • Light colors dominate over darker colors
  • White is dominant to everything
  • Black is not dominant over anything
  • Each alpaca has a Base Color Gene (what we see)
  • Each alpaca has a Second Color Gene (what we don’t see but can often determine through research)
  • Each alpaca has two colors and the lighter of them is what we see (phenotype)
  • Multis and Appaloosas have a dark-spotting gene
  • Tuxedo Greys and some others have a white-spotting gene
  • White-spotting gene is dominant
  • A dilution gene can take a black and dilute it up to fawn (MFI Tapioka whose base color is black)

So if we find out what our alpaca’s secondary color is, we have a better chance at determining the possible colors of his/her offspring. We found out that SCA Peruvian Magnum’s secondary color was black. This means that half of the time he breeds, he contributes his black color genetics to the cria. Priceless.

Our homework from the class was to determine each alpaca in our herd’s secondary color. If you don’t see me for awhile, you’ll know what I’m doing.

4 Responses to “Alpaca Color Genetics”

  1. 1


    What are you doing to determine the secondary color on your alpaca? What does the research require? Do you go back on both the dam and sire to see what color may have come from whom? Is it just a visual test?

    I am new to the business and would like to know this so I can research any alpace I may be interested in purchasing. I plan to breed for color.

    Thanks for your time.

  2. 2

    Hi Beth,
    Determining your alpaca’s secondary color can be tricky. Knowing the parents’ colors and having many offspring make it easier to determine. One thing is for sure. If you want to breed for color, consider avoiding white alpacas. Why? Because white is dominant and you will get lots of white babies. You’ve inspired me to write more about secondary color. Look for a post on it soon!

  3. 3

    Oh, aren’t genetics fun?! I don’t have alpacas, but have been breeding/showing rabbits for years and genetics are what drew me to them in the first place (I also bred show rats and mice for a long time and there are so many interesting genes there to play with). I didn’t know that alpacas have the most color variations… Good luck with the genotyping!

    Timiaes last blog post..Home Again, Ranting, & Tiny Fiber Update

  4. 4
    Alpaca Farm Girl - Farm Business » Determining Secondary Color:

    [...] Alpaca Color Genetics, I talked about finding out an alpaca’s secondary color. Then Beth asked me how to do that. [...]

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