SHAWNEE — Alpacas sound like whales. I’m not sure what I thought alpacas would sound like — maybe goats or sheep. Not whales. The short, fluffy farm animals look like they’re a collection of parts of other creatures, like maybe a giraffe, a sheep and a Siberian husky were mixed into the same petri dish. And whales, I guess.
These mishmash livestock are the stars at the A-OK Blast Off, a show organized by the group Alpacas of Oklahoma. Owning alpacas isn’t a casual affair. Owners and breeders are dedicated and love these creatures. They dote and brush and show off photos on their digital cameras. The relationship is somewhere between livestock and pet. There’s a separate language here: blanket, cria, crimp, microns and fleece weight. Discussions go deeper than huacaya versus suri — the two types of alpaca. It’s about genetics, breeding, traits, variability. Weirdly, white fleece is dominant. Black is recessive. Their wool is deceptive. Push the fibers apart and the color near the skin is a slightly different shade. Show officials use a card with fiber samples to categorize the alpacas according to color. It’s like a card you’d see in a hair salon when choosing a hair dye; like a paint chip of alpaca fleece. The wool is three to five inches deep. It’s like alpacas bring their own squishy comforter with them. It made me want to loop my arms around their fuzzy necks and hug. Alpacas are so nice, they’d probably let me. And if I was lucky, I’d hear their whale calls.